Frauen Initiative Uganda and Sexual Violence VictimsFor developing countries, all forms of gender-based violence can be detrimental to socio-economic progress. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 43% of Ugandan women aged 25 to 29 were married before turning 18. About 20% of Ugandan women between 15 and 49 years of age had experienced sexual violence in their past compared to 10% of the men who have reported the same. In order to manage gender-based violence, countries need sustainable, funded and functional medical and gender justice institutions. According to data from UNWOMEN, Uganda still needs a lot of work in this area. Ugandan women between the ages of 15 and 49 often face obstacles when trying to access sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, the country lacks effective legal frameworks to promote gender equality with a focus on violence against women.

Frauen Initiative Uganda

Frauen Initiative Uganda is an organization of 22 women who help victims of sexual violence find safe spaces. It was created when young women in Uganda mobilized over social media to create an organization in response to the rising cases of sexual violence during Uganda’s first national COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Safina Virani, co-director of Frauen Initiative Uganda, told The Borgen Project in an interview that while reports of rape were swarming the media, there was little being done to help the rape victims. “The founders and I recognized that something had to be done for the rape victims. From that thought, we decided to create an organization that provides legal, medical and psychological aid for free to rape victims,” she explained.

Frauen Initiative Uganda offers three main services for free to victims of sexual violence in Uganda:

  1. Medical aid. The initiative provides rape kits and medication to protect victims from contracting HIV. This is the most basic of medical examinations recommended to rape victims but getting $5 is hard to come by for most Ugandan rape victims.
  2. Psychological aid. To deal with the trauma of gender-based violence, Frauen Initiative Uganda offers a way for victims to access psychological help. This proves to be the most costly as securing mental health requires ongoing therapy sessions.
  3. Legal aid. Frauen Initiative Uganda has partnered with the Women’s Probono Initiative, a non-profit that advances women’s legal representation through pro bono work. This has been important in ensuring justice is achieved.

The Shadow Pandemic in Uganda

The “shadow pandemic” is a phenomenon that recently occurred due to emerging data from all over the world showing all types of violence against women and girls amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 continues to strain health facilities across the world and as more infectious coronavirus variants spread through the developing world, domestic violence shelters and facilities have reached their capacities. Uganda is hardly an exception. The country became a statistic of the shadow pandemic with studies showing that about 46% of women faced a fear of violence as the COVID-19 crisis heightened. About 22% of the women experienced sexual or gender-based violence during the first national lockdown in 2020; such cases had increased by over 3,000 with a little over 1,000 being reported to the police.

Economic Challenges, Barrier to Justice

The economic impact of COVID-19 in Uganda has had implications on gender-based violence. It was cited in a UNDP report that women would face economic disadvantages due to the pandemic restrictions in Uganda. This would expose them to violence, especially women who live with abusive partners.

The economic downturn also has impacts on the work of Frauen Initiative Uganda. Safina Virani explained that due to the economic challenges in Uganda, it is difficult to carry out operations. While Frauen Initiative Uganda has a hard time reaching victims, it becomes more daunting in rural areas. In these areas, gender-based violence rates are highest and low incomes prevent women from accessing internet-enabled devices to seek help.

Even if victims of gender-based violence access internet devices, Uganda’s internet tax makes it difficult to benefit from internet services. Starting July 2021, all Ugandans are charged a levy to access the internet. The government claims it uses this levy to raise revenue for inclusive growth, development and industrialization. Before this new economic restriction, one had to pay a social media tax to use platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook.

Despite these economic obstacles, Frauen Initiative Uganda finds ways to maintain its operations. All members of the organization contribute a little over $1 monthly. “Our team members are usually generous enough to donate more than their allocated amount,” Safina Virani said.

Using Online Platforms to Achieve Success

Despite the digital divide between men and women in Uganda, fighting gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic can be successful. The digital gender gap in Uganda is around 43% with women having less access to internet services mostly due to economic reasons. However, Frauen Initiative Uganda has been able to achieve a few successes.

In a moving story, Frauen Initiative Uganda was able to apply pressure on online platforms controlled by the government. The organization did this to find a young teenage girl who was raped by a soldier, then subsequently kidnapped to force her to have an abortion. An active Twitter hashtag campaign was launched by members of the initiative. “Even though the soldier was never convicted, Frauen Initiative Uganda sees this as a life saved thanks to our actions,” Safina Virani added, explaining that the girl may have never been returned.

In response to fighting gender-based violence, it is important to recognize the role of NGOs such as Frauen Initiative Uganda.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in VenezuelaMenstrual products are instrumental to a woman’s daily life. These products, deemed nonessential by many governments, affect women in their home life, work and education. However, up to two million Venezuelan girls and women end up victims of an economy in crisis, unable to afford the basic menstrual necessities. Several organizations are addressing period poverty in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Inflation Crisis

Venezuela’s economy, once rich and booming, has fallen into a crisis over the past two decades. By 2014, 90% of the country’s earnings came from oil. However, as oil prices dropped, an economic collapse began. The value of the Venezuelan currency fell, and as a result, the cost of goods increased.

At the time, the newly inaugurated President Nicolas Maduro made the executive decision to print more money. This intended solution simply made the problem worse as an increased supply in currency only decreased its value even more. Maduro’s government continued to print more money to combat the falling prices, creating a dangerous cycle of hyperinflation. The current inflation rate is an estimated 9,986%, the highest inflation rate globally.

How Hyperinflation Impacts Menstrual Products

Due to hyperinflation, many women in Venezuela are affected by period poverty. One package of sanitary pads can cost more than a quarter of a month’s salary. A box of tampons is even more inaccessible, costing “up to three months’ salary.” Women who cannot afford these prices are forced to improvise by creating “temporary pads made of old socks, toilet paper or cardboard.” These makeshift menstrual products carry health implications for girls and women, putting them at heightened risk of toxic shock, urinary tract infections and other diseases.

Period Poverty Affects Education and Employment

Menstrual products affect not only a woman’s health but also every aspect of her daily life. Women who cannot afford products often have to miss school or work as a consequence. For school-aged girls, this can total 45 days of the school year missed. Since education is linked to poverty reduction, a lack of menstrual products exacerbates cycles of poverty. By missing work, womens’ incomes are reduced, intensifying conditions of poverty.

Sustainable Menstrual Solutions

Sustainable menstrual products may provide a solution to addressing period poverty in Venezuela. While standard pads and tampons have to be regularly purchased due to their disposable nature, menstrual cups are resilient and reusable, proving both effective and affordable.

Marian Gómez, the founder of The Cup Ve, created a menstrual cup that costs $10-$20 and lasts about seven years. This proves significantly cheaper long-term compared to buying monthly disposable menstrual products.

Sisters Marianne and Véronique Lahaie Luna also recognized the potential of menstrual cups in reducing period poverty in Venezuela. Their NGO, Lahai Luna Lezama, donated more than 400 menstrual cups to Venezuelan migrant women in 2019 alone. More than 300 menstrual cup recipients reported that the menstrual cups significantly transformed their lives.

Menstrual Education in Venezuela

Menstrual myths and stigma as well as a lack of menstrual education also exacerbate the issue of period poverty in Venezuela. To address this, Plan International hosts educational menstrual workshops for migrant girls and women. The organization distributed hygiene kits to more than 41,000 “Venezuelan people in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.” Plan International’s future plans include not just giving out resources but opening the conversation around menstruation.

The commitment and dedication of organizations help to combat period poverty in Venezuela, removing barriers to female advancement and development. By combating period poverty, global poverty is simultaneously reduced.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Health in Papua New GuineaWomen’s health in Papua New Guinea is wrought with struggles, stemming from both inadequate healthcare centers and the country’s law. The gender inequity of the situation sees men receiving more comprehensive medical care than women. Unfortunately, Papua New Guinea’s adherence to its healthcare policies does not include extending further care to women. Many of those who identify as women on official documents get pushed under the general term of “population,” resulting in a lack of gender-specific reports on women’s overall medical conditions. Women’s health in Papua New Guinea needs prioritizing, especially in the maternity category. With 230 deaths per 100,000 live births, the country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Pacific.

Women’s Health in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a mainly patriarchal society where women are often discriminated against and looked down upon due to gender norms. Many women do not achieve higher education, which then perpetuates a cycle of early marriages and motherhood at a young age. This cycle has made it difficult for women to establish themselves within the workforce. Even within the workforce, it is relatively uncommon for women to receive fair benefits and wages. Discrimination against women presents a significant barrier to women’s health in Papua New Guinea.

The Effect of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea

Unfortunately, many women in Papua New Guinea cannot afford healthcare even if it were available and accessible. In households, women are responsible for the majority of unpaid care work and domestic duties. With school closures amid COVID-19, the domestic workload of women has only increased. The pandemic has exacerbated the financial struggle for many with job losses and wage cuts.

With vulnerable populations unable to leave their homes during COVID-19, gender-based violence is on the rise. With quarantines and lockdowns underway, many essential service centers had to close their doors, leaving vulnerable populations without help. Furthermore, many organizations that provided funding for women’s health centers had to divert the funding toward addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The insurgence of COVID-19 made already inaccessible services even more difficult to obtain. Though the number of COVID-19 cases reported in official documents is already high, studies and institutions suspect that the number is actually much higher. The pandemic brings high mortality rates and government-instilled quarantines have led to businesses temporarily closing or shutting down completely. The COVID-19 pandemic strains healthcare in Papua New Guinea. As a result, women’s health has not taken priority.

World Vision

To combat the gender inequality in healthcare, groups such as World Vision have projects dedicated to specifically aiding women in Papua New Guinea. World Vision’s project, the Papua New Guinea Health and Nutrition Project, focuses on the health of mothers and children. Since its establishment, the project has helped 28,628 people by providing essential medicines and treatments, including HIV treatment.

Additionally, the program trained 200 people and stationed them as community health workers and birth assistants. One of the project’s biggest objectives was providing access to healthcare centers for pregnant and lactating women. This kind of aid will ensure lower maternal mortality rates as prenatal conditions can be diagnosed and treated more easily if mothers regularly access healthcare services.

UN Women

U.N. Women has made it a goal to bring more awareness to societal gender issues, creating awareness programs that encourage female leadership roles in society and politics. U.N. Women encourages the involvement of women in governmental decisions to address discrimination against women and the resulting impact on women’s health. U.N. Women believes that female-led organizations encourage women to better their communities. The impact and efforts of individuals can be used as stepping stones to work toward more extensive healthcare access outside of the pandemic.

Looking Ahead

Organizations are trying to alleviate the negative impact of COVID-19 on healthcare. Furthermore, organizations are putting women’s health at the center of healthcare priorities. With the establishment of female-targeted health centers, women who either lost or struggled to access healthcare, including vaccinations, will receive the prioritized care necessary for their well-being. These organizations continue to push for changes to both mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and ensure that women’s health in Papua New Guinea improves for the better.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Myanmar
Myanmar, once known as Burma, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia with a population of around 52.4 million people. Of the population, 26.6 million people are women. Over the last decade, Myanmar has embarked on an accelerated socioeconomic and political transition. However, it has fallen short in correcting the gender inequality ravaging the nation’s laws and policies. Despite the country’s development, there is still room for improvement in upholding women’s rights in Myanmar.

Gender Disparity in Myanmar

Global indices and national data show the disparities between Myanmar citizens on the basis of sex. The 2020 Gender Inequality Index ranked Myanmar 147 of 189 countries, while the 2021 Social Institutions and Gender Index identified Myanmar as the eighth-most discriminatory country out of nine Southeast Asian nations.

Despite the country’s 2008 Constitution guaranteeing equal rights and equal legal protection to all persons, a subsequent report from the CEDAW Committee voiced concerns. Namely, the constitution contains references to women mostly as mothers. This reinforces their stereotypical role as caretakers in need of protection. It also states that “nothing in this section shall prevent the appointment of men to the positions that are naturally suitable for men only.” Despite equal rights in areas such as inheritance law or marital property, Myanmar’s deeply rooted patriarchal values still shape families and restrict women’s participation in all levels of decision-making.

Key Areas of Discrimination

One area that severely limits women’s participation in decision-making is economic activities. According to the 2014 census, only 50.5% of working-age women were part of the labor force, nearly 34% less than men. Moreover, women tend to have employment in lower-skilled jobs and lower-level posts, which suggests that Myanmar’s society values men’s work more than women’s and pays accordingly, creating a gender wage gap.

Other key areas of concern include the high maternal mortality ratio and insufficient access to reproductive health services. As of 2017, Myanmar had the highest maternal mortality ratio in Southeast Asia, with 282 per 100,000 live births. One can mainly attribute these maternal deaths to Myanmar’s crumbling healthcare system.

Hospitals lack basic equipment because of funds that the military junta appropriate, resulting in poor coverage of reproductive health services. In fact, to date, there is very little known about the patterns of maternal health service utilization in Myanmar. High fertility rates and delays in reaching emergency care also contribute to the problem. A further concern is the heightened discrimination of women in ethnic minority groups. Also worrisome, the most impoverished rural areas suffer from an exacerbation of these issues.

Action to Improve Women’s Rights in Myanmar

Several organizations are now taking action to improve women’s rights. A top priority is educating people on the importance of women’s rights and addressing the surrounding myths and misconceptions. Of these organizations, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement is extremely important. As a governmental organization working toward gender equality, it launched the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (2013-2022) to promote and protect women’s rights in Myanmar.

The plan, which aligns with the 12 areas outlined in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, presents a significant strategic opportunity to integrate women’s rights in Myanmar’s reform agenda. Although Myanmar is not yet at the level of its Southeast Asian neighbors, women’s political participation has increased since the plan’s implementation. According to the Department of Social Welfare, 10 domestic vocational centers were established to support women’s development and security in top conflict areas.

The Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, which emerged in 1991 to promote the quality of family life, is Myanmar’s largest NGO. It is also the leader in providing sexual and reproductive health services across the country to more than 200,000 clients annually. Additional bodies include Myanmar’s Women Entrepreneurs Association (MWEA), a strategic alliance established in 1995.

The MWEA is composed of more than 1,600 businesswomen highlighting the capabilities of Myanmar’s women entrepreneurs. The MWEA actively engages foreign donors and potential investors to create business opportunities for women entrepreneurs. An example of this is the 2020 India-Myanmar agreement to create a roadmap for collaborative opportunities between women entrepreneurs of both countries.

A Hopeful Future for Women’s Rights in Myanmar

All of these organizations and measures advocate for the advancement of women’s rights in Myanmar. The most crucial areas are improving women’s education and health, advancing women’s roles in the economy and ending violence against women. The progress of these bodies and organizations reflects Myanmar’s evolving socioeconomic landscape.

However, these gains have been under threat since the military takeover in February 2021. But, while the military junta attempts to regress the country back to its repressively patriarchal roots, the women of Myanmar are on the front lines, representing 60% of protestors and some 80% of the movement’s leaders.

Myanmar’s women embrace the opportunity to not only change the present after a long history of military oppression but also secure a brighter future. Although Myanmar has a long way to go before it reaches gender equality, these protests make it clear that Myanmar’s women are the voice of the revolution, committed to achieving gender equality.

– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Afghanistan Period poverty in developing countries, such as Afghanistan, is a public health crisis and global poverty exacerbates the issue since it leads to individuals being unable to afford menstrual hygiene products. The American Medical Women’s Association explains period poverty as “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management.”

Lack of Menstrual Education and School Absenteeism

Period poverty negatively impacts female education due to menstrual-related absenteeism. The Child Deprivation Analysis of 2020 indicates that “30% of girl students in Afghanistan are absent during menstruation because schools do not have adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.” Explaining the severity of girls’ school absenteeism, UNICEF says that “This, in turn, translates to significant economic losses later in life for themselves — and their nation that is deprived of their talents and productivity.” For this reason, addressing period poverty in Afghanistan essentially means “safeguarding the dignity, education and overall life opportunities of girls and women.”

With support from the Finnish government, the Ministries of Education and Rural Rehabilitation and Development and UNICEF provided menstrual education training to more than 500 female Afghan teachers. UNICEF also distributed more than 100,000 menstrual hygiene management (MHM) educational booklets to teachers and girls. In 2021, UNICEF aims to train more than “550 male and female teachers in 130 schools across Afghanistan.”

Menstrual Stigma and Health Consequences

The cultural stigma surrounding menstruation worsens period poverty in Afghanistan. The conservative culture of Afghanistan is a prevailing reason for the taboo surrounding menstruation. Whilst menstruating, women and girls are regarded as unclean and as a result, they are prohibited from engaging in certain daily activities, eating certain foods and participating in religious practices. The stigma surrounding menstruation continues to exclude and discriminate against women and girls. As a result, women and girls feel persistent shame and their daily lives are disrupted due to a natural biological function.

Period poverty also poses negative health consequences. Without access to menstrual-related information and sanitary products to properly manage menstruation, girls and women are at more risk of infection as they resort to using “potentially harmful domestic alternatives such as wood shavings, dried leaves, hay, old socks filled with sand” and more.

There are additional risks when there is limited access to clean water. The lack of clean water has the potential to lead to urinary tract infections and yeast infections, which is why some organizations are providing developing countries with menstrual hygiene management facilities to encourage better menstrual hygiene practices.

Organizations Fighting to End Period Poverty

Multiple organizations aim to alleviate the negative impacts of period poverty. For instance, Safepad hopes to empower Afghan women and schoolgirls through work opportunities and access to reusable menstrual products. Located in Kabul, Safepad provides professional training and employs Afghan women to sew, make and pack Safepad products. Safepad not only empowers Afghan women through adequate access to menstrual products but women also benefit from a reliable source of income.

UNICEF works to keep Afghan girls in school by focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. This includes ensuring access to water, constructing gender-segregated bathrooms, including “washrooms in girls’ toilets” and adding menstrual education to the school curriculum.

The Menstrual Equity for All Act

In a March 6, 2021, press release, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng urged President “Biden to take action to end period poverty.” The Menstrual Equity for All Act, reintroduced by Rep. Meng in March 2019, aims to ensure U.S. foreign assistance incorporates principles of menstrual equity. Although the Menstrual Equity for All Act did not progress any further, it conveys an important message that “Menstrual equity is the issue of ensuring equitable access to menstrual products. One’s ability to access and afford these products is a basic need and a health care right; it is a human right.”

Looking Ahead

Poverty and humanitarian crises can limit women’s and girls’ access to culturally appropriate, high-quality menstrual supplies and safe, private washing facilities. Period poverty in Afghanistan widens the gender gap, which is a result of extreme poverty and stigma. This can harm those who menstruate due to a lack of education, adequate facilities and clean water.

Access to menstrual education and products to properly manage menstruation empowers Afghan girls and women. In turn, girls and women are able to rise out of poverty as they continue their daily lives without disruption and pursue education and employment.

– Grace Watson
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health in Detention CentersAcross the United States, and the world, women have continually faced challenges regarding access to fair and proper healthcare. However, the detention centers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the border of the United States are the source of alarming stories of women who have been denied fundamental rights to healthcare. In a system with the purpose of solely providing emergency care to secure deportations, women’s health loses its priority. Denying and delaying the needs of women in these facilities has potentially dangerous consequences for their health. Prioritizing women’s health in detention centers is of the utmost importance.

Women’s Health in Detention Centers

Women in ICE detention facilities in the United States frequently confront many challenges in their attempt to secure proper healthcare. Prominent among these limitations include the language barrier that prevents many immigrant women, who are unfamiliar with English, from being able to communicate their health concerns. This problem persists especially through medical consent and the issue of immigrant women signing contracts that they cannot understand. Additionally, many women do not know their rights or the standard protocols of the facilities. As a result, many women assume that certain treatments or provisions are unavailable. Giselle M, a woman who was detained during her pregnancy, endured discomfort while sleeping because she was unaware that according to the center’s rules, an extra mattress had to be provided.

According to a Human Rights Watch interview, however, a major reason why women decline medical attention is because of a lack of confidentiality. Although ICE’s protocol stipulates that doctors are expected to maintain patient privacy, breaches of confidentiality are quite common in detention facilities. Many women reported that guards were privy to some of the medical details that doctors had access to. Women were less willing to share their personal struggles if others could find out. For example, pregnancy tests were not always done individually and the news could be quickly spread across detention centers.

The Consequences of Inadequate Healthcare

Access to healthcare for marginalized women is extremely significant as without the necessary medical care, the health of women in these detention centers could be jeopardized. Minimal access to regular screenings, contraception and treatment have fostered prejudice and damaged the health of undocumented women.

In 2017, a woman named Teresa, who was four months pregnant at the time, was detained for 24 hours on the United States border. Overnight, Teresa experienced heavy bleeding and extreme pain, yet she was still not transported to a hospital for emergency care. Only days later did detention staff confirm that Teresa had miscarried. She faced several complications after the miscarriage but her medical health was still neglected.

In addition, important tests such as pap smears and breast exams, which are instrumental in the prevention of certain diseases, were completely denied to many women in these facilities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took note of these inadequacies and issued multiple reports. But, the conditions in border camps and detention centers pertaining to healthcare have improved minimally.

The Suppressed Voices of Women

Significantly, many women fear the consequences of vocalizing their complaints because of the power ICE holds over their future in the United States. For immigrants leaving their countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families, receiving an identity in the United States means sacrificing their basic needs. From an ICE county jail in Arizona, a group of women detailed their experience in a letter about ICE’s medical facilities. In particular, the letter noted, “when we’ve complained to the nurses, we get ridiculed with replies like: ‘You should have made better choices … ICE is not here to make you feel comfortable.’” Various detention centers throughout the United States have isolated women and caused them to suppress their concerns.

Solutions

Regardless of their circumstances, women in detention centers in the United States deserve the basic rights that should be provided to them in the form of a secure healthcare system. Although altering the system is a difficult task, joint efforts can raise the quality of medical attention for migrant women’s health. Already, several bills attempt to address this issue such as the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act. Oftentimes, prisons and detention centers create policies with men in mind and exclude women from their due rights. Both of the aforementioned bills advocate for the rights of women in detention centers. Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helped to pass the First Step Act in 2018, which would help to protect pregnant women in jail. With the passing of these laws, women’s health in detention centers can improve.

Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Myanmar
Period poverty is when women do not have adequate access to sanitary napkins and other resources to aid them during menstruation. This leads many women to use the same napkin for an extended period of time, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections. Period poverty in Myanmar is particularly prevalent.

Period poverty research is a relatively new topic. There are no formal records documenting how many women lack access to pads. Additionally, the investigation into period poverty is more recent in Southeast Asian countries. Based on the information that some have acquired, here are five facts about period poverty in Myanmar.

5 Facts About Period Poverty in Myanmar

  1. Women Often Stay Home: Period poverty has long-term effects on women. For example, when women are on their period, they tend to stay at home, where they are closer to sanitary napkins and other supplies. Women spend about 10-20% of the year at home due to their period and a lack of sanitary items. In addition, disabled women and women in prison have little to no access to pads.
  2. Organizations Providing Sanitary Products: Organizations such as Bloody Good Period and The Pad Project have been working hard to raise money to donate sanitary napkins to women in countries facing period poverty. Zuraidah Daut is a social activist in Malaysia who places empty boxes outside of storefronts to collect donations. Many people donate pads and sanitary napkins for those who cannot afford them.
  3. Adequate Sanitation Facilities: Another reason women and girls might stay home during their periods is a lack of adequate sanitation facilities at school or work. For example, in many schools, girls and boys share toilets, which increases the likelihood of girls staying home during their periods. Public facilities also do not always have soap, water or a place to dispose of sanitary products.
  4. Cultural Stereotypes: Many people hold stigmatizing cultural stereotypes about periods in Myanmar. For example, some people in Myanmar believe that periods are dirty. As a result, about 50% of women think periods are a disease. Furthermore, about 80% of women reported feeling embarrassed by their first period. People in Myanmar commonly believe that women should not wash their hair, go to temples or eat tea leaf salad to cleanse themselves during their period.
  5. Changing Mindsets: The good news is that women in Myanmar are improving their mindsets about periods. Burmese artist Shwe Wutt Hmon displayed an art exhibit exploring the shame surrounding periods and menstruation in Yangon, Myanmar. The piece involved asking 30 different women about their experiences and opinions of their period. Hmon encouraged women to accept menstruation and respect their bodies. Her exhibitions depict women eating tea leaf salad and kneeling with their legs chained and sitting beside one another, which are all superstitions the Myanmar people connect to the perception that periods as dirty. This effort and others like it are essential for changing long-held beliefs about women and menstruation.

Period poverty in Myanmar prevents many women from having access to sanitary products or adequate sanitation facilities. Cultural stereotypes around menstruation also make managing periods difficult for women. Fortunately, many organizations and individuals are intervening and educating others on better and safer practices. Over time, sanitary products will hopefully become more accessible as the stigma surrounding menstruation decreases.

– Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

3 Organizations Working to End Period Poverty in GuatemalaPeriod poverty in Guatemala weighs heavily on the country’s women and girls. The lack of access to hygiene management education and proper sanitation tools forces young girls out of school for days at a time. As young girls grow up in Guatemala, they are met with a challenge. Specifically, their menstruation cycle. Not only is this a milestone in their personal lives but also a limitation. The lack of access to necessary feminine products forces girls to stay home for days. However, as technology evolves and resources are found, many organizations are working to end period poverty in Guatemala and beyond.

Days For Girls

Days For Girls commits the scope of its work to support young women throughout their lives. The organization begins this process by providing a Days For Girls Kit, education on proper self-care, training and general support for girls. Additionally, the group spreads awareness through global partnerships, mobilizing volunteer networks and working toward normalizing menstruation.

The DFG Kit consists of many necessary items for a woman’s period. All the products are reusable, easily washable and durable. In fact, users say the items can last up to three years. These kits have been made to use a small amount of water, dry quickly and keep women comfortable while going about their daily lives. Furthermore, Days For Girl also handmakes the kits and the bags they come in, giving them a touch of beauty and personality.

The impact of this organization is felt by many. Thus far, Days For Girls has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million females. The organization’s reach is spread across more than 140 countries, with more than a thousand teams and chapters. The organization also has a main office stationed in Guatemala, focused on growing the team and production.

GRACE Project (Guatemalan Rural Adult and Children’s Education)

The GRACE Project is a collaboration of groups in Southwest Florida. The project aims to educate, train and help employ the local Guatemalan women as well as women in Guatemala. The organization develops and performs workshops and home visits in which educational materials on reproductive health and local resources are provided.

In addition to education, the GRACE Project creates handmade menstruation kits. All the products are reusable, washable, and long-lasting. Included in the kit are fertility bracelets with instructions, hields for any leakage, flannel cotton pads, soap, a gallon bag for washing use and underwear.

The hard work of these volunteers speaks for itself. In the past year, 500 of the kits were given to women all over Guatemala. Along with these, the organization has also passed out 800 Reproductive Health Kits within Central America. The fertility bracelet included in the kit is especially empowering for women as it gives them the protection they need. Moreover, the bracelet is 85% effective as a life long contraception. The GRACE Project continues to grow production and delivery methods through workshops in Guatemala.

SERniña

Founder Danielle Skogen, a teacher, lived in Guatemala for three years. While teaching she began to notice a pattern. She found a need for health and sanitation education, in particular among the girls. Often, Skogen would watch girls drop out of school due to a lack of access to proper sanitary items and a lack of support from their community. Thus, she developed SERniña as an educational support program.

The SERniña program works with already established educational organizations to educate young women and help end period poverty in Guatemala. The organization teaches a range of topics such as:

  • Understanding Your Human Rights
  • Sexual & Menstrual Health
  • Financial Literacy
  • Goal-setting

In the workshops, teachers empower young women to be confident and take care of their self-care needs. All of the organization’s lessons are taught by trained local women who are certified staff for SERniña. Ultimately, the program allows for conversations and participation in a safe space with specific lessons focused on self-advocacy, self-care and overall self-love. As a result, the program has delivered more than 400 hours of workshops to 180 girls and counting.

The efforts of these three organizations play an important role in ending period poverty in Guatemala. Education, access to resources and support are needed to help young women develop higher standards of living as ending period poverty will result in more girls staying in school. As the work to end period poverty in Guatemala continues, the government and non-profit organizations must help support local organizations like Days for Girls, the GRACE project and SERniña.

Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Guatemala As young girls grow up in Guatemala, they are met with a challenge: their menstruation cycle. Period poverty in Guatemala weighs heavily on the country. The lack of access to hygiene management education and proper sanitation tools forces young girls out of school for days at a time.  However, as technology evolves and resources are found, many organizations are working to end period poverty in Guatemala and beyond.

Days For Girls

Days For Girls commits to supporting women in girlhood and throughout the rest of their lives. The organization begins this process by providing a Days For Girls (DFG) Kit, education on hygiene and sanitation, training and general support. Additionally, the group spreads awareness through global partnerships, mobilizing volunteer networks and working toward destigmatizing menstruation.

The DFG Kit consists of a multitude of necessities for a period. All the products are reusable, easily washable and durable. In fact, users of the patented kit say the items can last up to three years. Specifically, these kits have been made to use a small amount of water, dry quickly and keep users comfortable while going about their daily lives. Furthermore, Days For Girl also hand makes the kits and the bags they come in, giving them a touch of beauty.

Thus far, Days For Girls has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million females. The organization’s reach is spread across more than 140 countries, with more than a thousand mobilizing teams and chapters. Currently, they have over 15 countries with enterprises. Importantly, the group has an office stationed in Guatemala, focused on growing the team and production in the country.

GRACE Project (Guatemalan Rural Adult and Children’s Education)

The GRACE Project stems from a collaboration of groups in Southwest Florida. The project aims to educate, train and help employ the local Guatemalan women. The organization develops and implements workshops and home visits where they provide educational materials on reproductive health and local resources.

In addition to education, The GRACE Project creates handmade menstruation kits. All the products are reusable, washable and long-lasting.

Included in the kit there are:

  • Fertility bracelets with instructions
  • Shields that are barriers for any leakage
  • Flannel cotton pads
  • Soap
  • Gallon bag for washing use
  • Underwear

In the past year, 500 of the kits were given to women all over Guatemala. Along with these, the project has also passed out 800 Reproductive Health Kits within Central America. The kit provides up to three years’ worth of period products and a lifetime of birth control. The GRACE Project continues to grow production and delivery methods through workshops in Guatemala.

SERniña

SERniña Founder, Danielle Skogen, lived in Guatemala for three years working as a teacher. During her time, she noticed a need for health and hygiene education. Often, Skogen would watch girls drop out of school due to a lack of access to proper sanitary items and a lack of support from their community. Thus, she developed SERniña as an educational support program.

The SERniña program works with already established educational organizations to bring about curriculums to educate and help eradicate period poverty in Guatemala. The organization teaches a range of topics such as:

  • Understanding Your Human Rights
  • Sexual & Menstrual Health
  • Financial Literacy
  • Goal-setting

In the workshops, facilitators work with the women to be confident and take care of their hygienic needs. Trained local women who are certified facilitators for SERniña teach all of the organization’s lessons. The program allows for conversations and participation in a safe space with specific lessons focused on self-advocacy, self-care and overall self-love.  As a result, the program has delivered more than 400 hours of workshops to 180 girls and counting.

As shown above, the efforts of each organization play an important role in the Guatemalan community. Education, access and support truly uplift the local women. The work to eradicate period poverty in Guatemala can continue thanks to aid from organizations like these.

Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Female Health Care in KenyaPoverty affects genders differently, with women often being more disadvantaged than men. Meeting the strategic needs of those living in poverty must be accompanied by fulfilling practical gender needs. This will ensure equal access to economic progress for all. One NGO is working to fight gender discrimination by providing female health care in Kenya.

Girls in Danger

In the wake of COVID-19, mass closures of schools and businesses have further hindered the economic development of remote Kenyan districts. The strict COVID-19 guidelines implemented by local authorities have resulted in the closing of safe homes and centers for girls. The preoccupation with COVID-19 regulations led authorities to produce minimal effort to stop the violence against women and girls. On top of the pandemic, the country has fallen victim to other disasters. Extreme droughts and flooding, as well as a locust invasion, have lowered the food supply for rural areas.

These desperate circumstances have left low-income families with limited financial options. Some families have resorted to employing their young children and marrying off their daughters in exchange for money and cattle. This incites increased gender-based violence as child marriages leave girls vulnerable to sexual and physical violence.

Dr. Esho, who works on-site for Amref Health, said, “Including community systems in the prevention of and response to FGM/C (female genital mutilation and cutting) and child marriage is more important than ever. More women and girls are now at risk of harmful practices and gender-based violence.”

Centering Women in Health Care

Amref Health Africa is an NGO based in Nairobi, Kenya. It has been a crucial part of introducing health care services and technology to Sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 1957, the organization has a long history of bringing modern medicine to rural African communities.

Amref Health Africa is proving how female empowerment isn’t a silly social movement but a crucial factor in women’s livelihoods. The NGO dedicates much of its work to improving female health care in Kenya. Women often lack education on their sexual health, which impedes prudent, informed decisions regarding their futures. Advancements in female health care in Kenya can empower women to take control of their bodies and pregnancies. Additionally, it can offer better support to these women in their chosen paths.

Amref also aids women suffering from violence. Organization members, such as Dr. Esho, work jointly with local activists and health workers to construct a plan of action. The community members have firsthand knowledge and experience working with survivors of FGM/C and other cruelties, which Amref acknowledges and utilizes. Therefore, the NGO ensures victims are getting proper care and refuge from their abusive situations.

What We Can Do

Amref strives to bring awareness to gender-based violence and the positive effect of proper female health care in Kenya. With the hashtag #EndFGM, Amref is trying to engage international activists through social media. The organization is also accepting direct donations through its website.

One may feel powerless during times of international emergencies. However, that must not stop everyone from doing their part. Those who want to help can contact their congressmen and congresswomen as well as other representatives to protect the U.S.’s foreign aid budget. This will benefit NGOs, similar to Amref Health, that work closely with poor communities to identify unique problems and solutions.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr