In a continent whose culture puts a lot of pressure on a woman’s ability to reproduce, there is little knowledge shared within the African community on women’s reproductive health. Women make up half of Africa’s total population, with 56.4 percent of the female population between the ages of 15 and 64.
Gender Inequalities in Africa
In Africa, there is taboo surrounding a woman’s menstruation that has caused inequality among the sexes as well as serious health issues. In African culture, girls are raised with the notion that menstruation is something to be ashamed of and must keep these issues to themselves if they are even told what to expect.
Education about reproduction is scarce and most women lack the proper feminine hygiene supplies to facilitate their body’s needs. The cost of feminine sanitary items is exorbitantly high leading many to use other inefficient and dangerous methods to catch the flow of blood.
Many African girls face ridicule by the opposite sex while others suffer a strain on their self-esteem because of their body’s natural biology. In some parts of Africa, women are separated from the rest of the community and forbidden to participate in everyday activities until their monthly periods have ceased.
The gap in gender inequality is widened further when girls have to miss several days of school a month due to insufficient feminine resources.
With the acknowledgment that something must be done to repair the stigma surrounding menstrual periods in third world countries, especially the ones that are located in Africa, many organizations are leading the charge for change.
While providing cost-effective alternatives to sanitary napkins, most of these organizations are uplifting the female population with one of the most invaluable resources of all— education. Some of these women’s health organizations in Africa are described below.
5 Women’s Health Organizations in Africa
- One of the 5 women’s health organizations making an impact in Africa is AFRIpads, organization that categorizes itself as a social enterprise that produces and supplies cost-effective reusable sanitary pads. This Africa-based organization is aiming to reduce environmental stressors by cutting down on the amount of waste that one-use sanitation pads cause. As a company that employs mostly females, AFRIpads is destroying the social stigma surrounding menstruation by encouraging women in Africa to own up to their femininity one pad at a time.
- Ruby Cup is another organization that is offering a safe alternative to using rags as a sanitation device. This organization is providing reusable menstrual cups to girls in need through their “Buy 1, Give 1” initiative. In addition to securing an alternative means of female sanitation, the organization is also sending members out to educate girls about their female and reproductive health.
- Days for Girls is a powerful nonprofit organization that is improving far more than girl’s health. This organization’s aim is to change the attitudes about beauty and confidence. A coalition of volunteers sews brightly colored bags filled with supplies making their intended recipients feel extra special when they receive them. Days for Girls’ outreach efforts have improved the lives of more than a million girls and they are giving opportunities to those who had none before.
- ZanaAfrica is taking a direct approach to ending the inequality within girls education in Africa. Some girls in Africa miss school or they are forced to drop out because they are forced to miss some classes because of their periods, but ZanaAfrica is distributing sanitation materials along with a healthy dose of innovative educational resources. ZanaAfrica’s efforts have been met with the creation of days for awareness as well as working closely with government officials on female life-changing sanitation policies.
- Femme International is an organization that is promoting female empowerment among adolescent girls in Africa. They are not only contributing sustainable and long-term methods of menstrual protection but are also putting a heavy emphasis on the hygienic aspect of woman’s health. Included in their period kits is a bar of soap, a container for the soap, a towel and a bowl to boil water to sanitize the reusable menstrual cup included with the kit.
These five woman’s health organization in Africa described above have prevented girls from becoming sex workers in order to pay for their monthly sanitation needs. This has cut down the number of women contracting HIV/AIDS. They have also managed to save many girls from diseases related to improper sanitation and encouraged young girls to stay in school with their efforts.
In supplying girls in Africa with sanitation materials and information about their reproductive health, many of these organizations have raised awareness of the issue prompting change. Girls in third world countries in Africa affected by these organizations have undergone a transformation that has changed their whole outlook on life. Most important of all, these organizations have opened up a line of communication when it comes to talking about female reproductive health and periods.
– Catherine Wilson