Posts

Menstrual ProductsAmid conflict and war, Syrian women face a forgotten but significant issue: a lack of access to menstrual products. Despite its natural occurrence, periods are a source of shame and taboo in many countries, including Syria. Those living under siege in Syria are forced to live without basic necessities such as clean water and feminine hygiene products.

Huda’s Story

An article in the Independent newspaper details the interview of a 23-year-old named Huda living in a small village called Saqba, outside of Damascus, under strict government siege since 2013. She explains that there are hardly any menstrual products available for citizens of Saqba; any products available are marketed with prices so high that women are forced to choose between pads and food. As a result, Huda decided to use an old rag she found instead of buying menstrual products. This decision ultimately led to gynecological infections. Evidently, this is an issue that comes with deadly consequences, especially because many Syrians cannot afford proper medical treatment. Those who can afford to see one of the few gynecologists in the area will be prescribed medicine, a commodity usually unavailable in sieged regions.

The Alternative

More than 860,000 Syrians live under government siege, lacking basic necessities such as menstrual products and food. The shortage has led to the adoption of “the traditional method,” meaning women reuse old rags, pieces of mattress or even moss and grass as an alternative to menstrual products. The lack of clean water or fuel to boil water has also made it impossible to clean these rags properly, leading to infections.

Along with menstrual products, cramps are a source of distress for a majority of women who have periods. Without access to painkillers or heating pads, women are sometimes confined to bed rest or in constant agony during their period. Additionally, Global One conducted a study in refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria and found that almost 60% of Syrian females do not even have access to underwear. An even higher amount do not have access to feminine hygiene products.

The Taboo of Periods

The taboo of periods has only added to the mounting struggles that Syrian women face surrounding their menstrual cycles. In the Independent newspaper, many interviewed Syrian women even asked to be referred to under a pseudo name to protect their reputation while discussing their periods. To add to this, the anxiety of war and loss can lead to skipped periods or more heavy bleeding, further exacerbating the issue.

Many women in refugee or displacement camps do not leave their homes due to fear or shame; this fear intensifies when they do not have any menstrual products or a way to hide the bleeding. This can lead to social isolation and difficulty integrating into society. In addition, lacking access to menstrual products not only impacts women physically but can also affect their mental health.

Aid Packages

Many aid packages sent to Syria now include sanitary items. However, it is still not enough to help the millions of Syrian women in desperate need of these essential menstrual products. Along with this, sieged areas have limited access, with many nonprofit organizations unable to gain entrance to areas under government control. In 2016, the United Nations Children’s Agency successfully delivered 84,000 pads to Syrian women. While this seems like a significant amount, it hardly scratches the surface of the necessary amount of menstrual products.

An estimate from 2016 assumed that if one-third of the sieged population (860,000 as of 2016) were female, they would need more than 10 million pads annually. According to the World Bank, in 2020, 49% of the Syrian population was female. Since the sieged population has increased, the need for sanitary products is more prominent than ever.

The main obstacle in the path to safe menstrual hygiene for Syrian women is that many people do not view menstrual products as a priority, mainly because it only affects women.

Days for Girls to the Rescue

An organization in Lebanon has spearheaded an initiative to give these women a safe and affordable way to obtain menstrual products. Days for Girls (DFG), founded by Celeste Mergens in 2008, supports girls who do not have access to sanitary pads. The organization reaches 128 countries, the first location being Lebanon. These efforts focus on helping the 1.14 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. Not only does DFG provide sanitary pads for girls who need them but it also helps provide young women with a source of income by educating girls on pad production lines during an eight-day training session. The training aids young women by giving them a stable source of income and specialized skills that they can use in the future.

Arguably, one of the most significant impacts of DFG is battling the stigma that surrounds menstruation and teaching girls that periods are not a source of shame. DFG also focuses on creating reusable cloth pads that can last up to three years, helping reduce the amount of waste created by pad disposal. This benefits both the environment and the Syrian refugees in need of feminine hygiene products.

Ending Period Poverty in Syria

While the situation may seem bleak, organizations like DFG are continuously working to help Syrian women obtain the help they need. Through efforts made by DFG and others with similar missions as well as raising awareness of the issues, the international community can eradicate period poverty in Syria.

– Mariam Abaza
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

period poverty in Ghana
Ghana, formally known as the Gold Coast, was the first African country to achieve independence from British colonial rule. Ghana is a leading country in Africa but continues to struggle with poverty. Period poverty in Ghana is a prevailing issue, especially in rural areas. One study in the Zabzugu and North Dayi districts found that 95% of girls in the region missed school due to menstruation.

The causes of period poverty vary. However, the key factors are affordability, lack of education on periods and a dearth of access to menstrual materials. Grassroots and international organizations have stepped in to help solve these issues. An end to period poverty in Ghana is achievable through various strategies.

Eliminating the Tax on Menstruation Materials

 In Ghana, there is currently a 20% import tax on menstruation materials because the country considers them a “luxury” item. This creates a price increase that makes it difficult for families in low-income households to afford these items. An income report on rural Ghanaian cocoa farmers, for example, estimated a monthly income of GHS 1,464 equating to about $329 USD.

The estimated cost of one pad in Ghana averages to about GHS 5. Organizations that support healthy menstruation management, like J-Initiative, believe the Ghanaian government should remove the tax on these materials. #FREEMYPERIOD and #DONTTAXMYPERIOD are just a few of the grassroots campaigns created by advocacy groups urging Ghana’s government to consider menstruation materials as essential.

Recently, Ghanaian youth activists were successful in a six-month-long NOPADTAX campaign. Organizers garnered 2,000 signatures for a petition advocating for the removal of the tax. They presented the petition to the Ghanaian government on Menstrual Hygiene day, May 28, 2020.

The Ghanaian government heard the call for change and responded with a promising answer. At a political event held on August 22, 2020, Ghana’s vice president Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia said that “We will eliminate import duties on sanitary pads to improve health conditions, particularly for girls. It is very important. What we intend [on] doing is to make sure we produce sanitary pads in Ghana [and] until that happens in their numbers, we are going to eliminate import duties to bring down their cost.” Organizers view this as a prominent step toward ending period poverty in Ghana.

Manufacturing at Home

Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed manufacturing menstrual materials like sanitary pads and reusable sanitary cloths. Organizations like Days For Girls have been working to create alternative solutions to combat period poverty across the globe. This organization employs local women and girls to produce reusable sanitary pads utilizing local materials.

The Ghanaian chapter of the Days for Girls organization has provided 10,000 girls across all 10 regions of Ghana with free menstruation kits through its initiative. Many Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed grassroots manufacturing initiatives for menstruation materials as an economically and environmentally sustainable solution. Organizers believe that manufacturing menstruation materials on the ground would reduce costs and increase accessibility for these vital products.

Providing Menstrual Supplies

Providing menstruation supplies is another proposal to combat period poverty in Ghana. The Global Partnership for Education and DFID has offered to fund possible scholarship programs that seek to supply sanitary pads and school supplies for girls living in rural Ghana.

The Muslimah Mentorship Network, a Ghanaian based organization, created a campaign entitled #1Girl12Pad. This campaign aimed to provide menstruation materials and education on menstruation hygiene for Ghanaian girls. The group visited a school located in the northern region of Ghana and provided almost 300 girls with 12 packs of sanitary pads each, which is enough to last a whole year. The organization’s goal is to implement the campaign in three schools in each region of rural Ghana.

These kinds of initiatives also hope to encourage girls to continue to attend school while menstruating.

Education on Menstruation

Ghana has a variety of misconceptions and stigmas about menstruation. A popular belief is that menstruation is unclean, leading to mismanagement in menstrual hygiene. Organizations are taking the steps to educate both young women and men about menstruation. With proper education, Ghanaian girls will be better equipped to manage their periods and feel more confident with the idea of menstruating.

Advocacy groups hope that Ghana will place more importance on the value of proper menstrual hygiene and menstrual supplies through this increased knowledge. Education on menstruation is a vital tool in helping to reduce misinformation and stigma surrounding menstruation.

Normalizing Healthy Menstrual Hygiene Management

A healthy understanding of how to manage menstruation is vital. Menstrual hygiene management offers coping mechanisms to girls who suffer from cramps, headaches and other side effects of menstruation. Reports state that these coping skills help encourage girls to continue attending school while on their period.

One study on menstrual health management reports that pain was the leading cause of girls missing school. Healthy menstrual management combats this while also providing girls with crucial information on proper hygiene practices, like changing sanitary pads. Menstruation management can counteract the likelihood of hazardous practices that can lead to infection.

Period poverty is a prevailing issue in Ghana. However, there are many efforts to provide sustained solutions. Education on menstruation, healthy menstrual hygiene management and supply distribution and the elimination of the import tax on menstruation materials provide a feasible way to end period poverty in Ghana. 

Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Feminine Product Companies that Give Back For people living in extreme poverty around the world, access to basic needs such as food, water, shelter and medical care is a daily struggle. In addition to this, women face another challenge — access to menstrual products like pads and tampons. In fact, 1 million women worldwide cannot afford sanitary products. This issue, called “period poverty,” is one that many people and organizations are trying to combat. Here are five feminine products that give back to women around the world.

5 Feminine Product Companies that Give Back to Women

  1. Cora – Cora is a company that sells organic tampons whose mission is to fight period poverty. Cora uses a portion of its monthly revenue to provide sustainable period management for women in India. The company also empowers women through employment and education opportunities. According to the company website, “with every Cora purchase, we provide pads and health education to a girl in need. We use the power of business to fight for gender equality and to provide products, education and jobs to girls and women in need in developing nations and right here at home.”
  2. Lunapads – Lunapads is a feminine product company that has been supporting menstrual and reproductive health as well as access to period education in the Global South since 2000 through an organization called Pads4Girls. Pads4Girls educates women about healthy and economically efficient period products, such as the use of washable cloth menstrual pads and underwear that can last for years. Pads4Girls has helped to supply 100,000+ reusable menstrual pads and period underwear to more than 17,000 menstruators in 18 different nations.
  3. Days for Girls – Days for Girls is an international organization whose mission is to address global issues surrounding period poverty and provide education and access to menstrual products to those living in poverty. The organization has been working to achieve this goal by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls. To date, the Days for Girls movement has reached 1 million girls and counting.
  4. Bloody Good Period – Bloody Good Period is a period company based in the U.K. Gabby Edlin, the founder of the company, decided to do something about creating a sustainable flow of menstrual products for those who cannot afford them in the U.K. Bloody Good Period also sells merchandise and hosts events that highlight the stigmas around menstrual health and issues surrounding period poverty. The organization supplies 25 asylum seeker drop-in centers based in London and Leeds and supplies food banks and drop-in centers across the U.K. with period supplies.
  5. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) – Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is an organization whose main goal is to help women in Rwanda jumpstart locally owned franchises and businesses to manufacture and create affordable and eco-friendly pads. SHE works with local businesses to produce these pads with local farmers and manufacturing teams and works with these businesses on making pads affordable for those around the country. SHE also trains community health workers on how to provide education to boys and girls about puberty and menstrual hygiene. So far, SHE has allowed 60,101 girls and women living in poverty to have access to pads, and its mission has reached 4.3 million people through advocacy and social media.

Although the issue of period poverty continues to be a constant struggle for women and girls around the world, these were five feminine products that give back to women.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women Reduces Poverty
Gender inequality has been a major topic of concern since the end of the 19th century and countries around the world have made huge strides to empower women and make changes for gender equality ever since. Yet specifically in developing countries, gender inequality still plays a huge role in women’s lives and has a lasting effect on the economy, environmental degradation and poverty. Here’s how empowering women reduces poverty.

Effects of Gender Inequality

According to The Life You Can Save, one in three people in the world live on less than $2 a day, and 70 percent of them are women. Often, women in poverty have higher fertility rates and zero access to vaccines and health care, resulting in living on even less per day and in more deaths.

Empowering women reduces poverty and makes a huge difference overall for women and their children’s lives. The fact that some women do not have the same rights as men make it almost impossible for them to start businesses, earn an income and have the opportunity to live an independent life. Nonprofit Women for Women states that 25 million women in the Middle East and Africa do not have the constitutional and statutory property rights that men do. This often prevents women from being able to start a business from the lack of financial security and respect from community members.

Ways to Empower Women

Women’s empowerment is crucial to mitigating poverty and allowing women to reach their full potential. Below are several ways how empowering women can reduce poverty, and how individuals can help:

  1. Support charities that are working to educate and empower women and girls. Charities such as Women for Women, Days for Girls and Living Good focus on educating and supplying girls and women with health care, critical skills, counseling and protection from trafficking and child marriage. Charities are vital to helping women and girls who need it and every donation helps to empower women and mitigate poverty. In addition, if people become involved with charities such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, they have the opportunity to mentor or tutor a young girl in an area close to home and this is a great way to influence the life of an impoverished girl.
  2. Help improve access to clean water. According to UNICEF, girls in poor communities often do not go to school because they spend their time fetching water for their families. Girls walk an average of six kilometers to fetch water that is usually dirty and unsanitary to drink. UNICEF’s WASH program aims to address the inequalities that women and girls suffer in relation to water sanitation. Spreading awareness and supporting WASH is vital for poor communities to receive clean water and for women to have the opportunity to receive an education.
  3. Support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act focuses on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world prevent maternal, newborn and child deaths. According to World Vision Advocacy, around 2.7 million newborns die every single year due to treatable complications and illnesses. The Act will help implement an approach in giving poor mother’s the treatment that they and their babies need in order to survive and live a healthy life. Contacting Congress and supporting this Act can make a huge difference and in saving lives and empowering women.

Change Starts with People

In conclusion, there are plenty of ways to involve oneself in the community and have a lasting effect on young girls’ lives. Empowering women reduces poverty, and supporting charities and Acts that help empower women and make a difference in their lives is crucial to giving women and girls around the world the opportunity to flourish.

– Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Fighting Period PovertyLack of access to menstrual products impacts many girls and women in both the developing and developed world. Having a period without access to proper sanitation products can hurt a girl’s educational and life opportunities. However, these four organizations fighting period poverty are providing access and empowerment to girls and women in need.

Top 4 Organizations Fighting Period Poverty

  1. PERIOD
    Highschoolers Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand founded PERIOD in 2014 to combat period poverty and period stigma. Okamoto was inspired to help launch the nonprofit after dealing with homelessness as a teen. Homeless women often lack access to menstrual products because they cannot afford them or because shelters do not have enough products to go around. Today, PERIOD has more than 300 chapters that help distribute period products around the world, and so far, 510,181 women have been served by PERIOD’s work. The nonprofit is also fighting to eliminate the luxury tax on tampons and pads in the U.S. and abroad.
  2. Freedom4Girls
    Founded in 2016 by Tina Leslie, Freedom4Girls was inspired by Leslie’s experience working with the charity Maji Safi Projects in Kenya. During her time there, Leslie helped with Maji Safi Projects’ period poverty campaign, which consisted of creating sewing workshops for local women, making washable, reusable menstrual pads and delivering the pads to schools in the semi-rural area of Mombasa. The project also provided reproductive and menstrual education to girls and women in the community. Currently, Freedom4Girls provides menstrual products to 30 schools in the U.K. in order to increase girls’ abilities to go to school and participate in extracurricular activities while on their periods, since often, teachers are tasked with supplying menstrual products to their students. Freedom4Girls also works with community groups and other organizations fighting period poverty to host “Donation Stations” in order to collect menstrual products for other vulnerable groups, such as refugees.
  3. Dignity Period
    Dignity Period is a prime example of women’s empowerment and women’s health coming together to improve lives. In 2014, Fulbright Scholar Dr. Lewis Wall spent eight months improving residency education in gynecology and obstetrics at Mekelle University’s College of Health Sciences in Ethiopia. During his time there, he and his wife met Freweini Mebrahtu, owner of the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory. Seeing that period poverty was an issue that could be resolved through outreach, education and empowerment, Wall and Mebrahtu partnered to create Dignity Period. Today, Dignity Period partners with Mekelle University to conduct studies about the socioeconomic and cultural impact of periods and to provide education; at the same time, the nonprofit provides reusable menstrual pads to community members through Mebrahtu’s factory, which trains and employs women in the area.
  4. Days for Girls
    Days for Girls (DfG), like other organizations fighting period poverty, provides reusable menstrual products for girls in need. However, it is unique in the way its menstrual products are created and how they impact communities. Days for Girls has developed menstrual product kits that are provided to women and girls in need. Each DfG Kit is sewn by volunteer individuals or chapters and begins as a Portable Object of Dignity (POD). PODs include one waterproof shield and two absorbent liners and serve as gateways to the creation of small businesses for local women. PODs are extremely affordable and can be easily adapted to the needs of the customer, meaning that women in developing countries can use PODs to start and grow their own micro-enterprises selling DfG Kits. There are five kits currently distributed by Days for Girls: the POD, DfG POD Plus, Supreme DfG Kit, Heavy Flow DfG Kit and the Menstrual Cup Kit. Each kit contains reusable menstrual pads, a washcloth, a drawstring bag, panties and other essentials for a dignified period.

Women and girls around the world face the impacts of not having access to menstrual products and reproductive education. Absences from school, decreased opportunities for socioeconomic mobility and loss of dignity are only a few of the struggles faced by those living in period poverty. As a result, organizations fighting period poverty are taking a stand to empower these women and improve their futures.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

women's health, organizations
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
Photo: Flickr

Women's Health in IndiaOn Feb. 9, 2018, the Bollywood movie “Padman” was released to the largest film market in the world. “Padman” is exactly what it sounds like: a film about a man who creates pads. The Bollywood film chronicles the true story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, India’s pioneer of a revolutionary method of producing cost-effective sanitary pads for women and girls across the country.

The film is more than just a story about someone with a good idea; it is also challenging the stigma that surrounds menstruation and women’s health in India. “Period Poverty” is a global phenomenon that describes a woman’s inability to buy proper feminine hygiene products. In India in particular, the effects of period poverty hinder many girls’ abilities to stay in school. In India, one in four girls miss one day or more of school due to menstruation.

In lower and middle income countries, poor sanitation facilities are one thing that keep girls from attending school while on their period. Many schools in lower income countries also do not have the puberty education necessary to educate girls about menstruation. A recent study found that 71 percent of girls in India have no knowledge about menstruation prior to their first period.

Most cultures around the world also have a major stigma surrounding menstruation. In India in particular, a lot of taboo surrounds the topic of periods and women’s health in general. Restrictions for women on their period include not being able to enter religious shrines or come into contact with food, further keeping girls from school. Many girls are nervous about asking for help in the event of stained clothing due to improper feminine hygiene care.

Another thing keeping women from proper feminine hygiene care is cost. Until recently, 70 percent of Indian women could not afford to buy pads for their family. Instead, families resorted to using and reusing rags which quickly become unsanitary as breeding grounds for disease. In rural areas, materials other than rags were often used like sawdust or ash.

There are currently many NGOs operating around the world with the goal of creating affordable solutions for women suffering from period poverty. Many of these organizations are dedicated to solving issues of women’s health in India.

Innovator Arunachalam Muruganantham has created a machine that makes sanitary pads that are sold mostly to NGOs along with women’s self-help groups. The machine comes in two different types, a manual version and a semi-automated version. Each machine can make 200 to 250 pads a day and is designed to be user-friendly for women living in rural areas.

The pads sell for about 2.5 rupees, almost half of what it would be to buy them commercially. This system not only provides proper sanitary products for women, but also creates jobs for women living in rural areas as they learn how to use and operate the machine. Muruganatham has expanded his efforts well beyond India and is now working in 106 countries around the world.

An organization created in 2008 called Days for Girls is dedicated to improving women’s health around the world. The organization aims to provide girls with invaluable health education and provide its recipients with a Days for Girls kit. Each kit contains sanitary napkins, washcloths, soap, a menstrual chart and underwear. This is just one example of the many organizations fighting to end the stigma surrounding periods.

India is the largest film market in the world, with 2.2 billion movie tickets sold in 2016. Hopefully, the recent film, “Padman,” will reach a wide variety of audiences and bring more attention to issue of women’s health in India.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Flickr