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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

Menstrual Health in AfricaMenstruation is a process that every woman must go through, making it a relatively normal topic of discussion in the U.S. However, this is not the case in developing areas, including Africa. Due to a lack of education, proper hygiene and sanitation practices, menstrual health in Africa struggles to improve. Fortunately, several organizations are working to improve the conditions of menstrual hygiene management.

 

Menstrual Health in Africa

Menstrual hygiene management, also known as MHM, encompasses puberty education and awareness, MHM product solutions (such as pads or tampons) and sanitation. These things, combined with the community and its influencers, shape young girls’ journeys through puberty.

Kenya, for example, offers the following statistics on menstrual health:

  • 50 percent of girls openly discuss menstruation at home.
  • 32 percent of rural schools have a private place for girls to change their menstrual product.
  • 12 percent of girls feel comfortable discussing menstruation with their mothers.
  • Two out of three pad users received them from sexual partners.
  • One in four girls does not associate menstruation with pregnancy.

From these facts, it is clear that there is a disconnect between the awareness of menstrual health and the tools these girls are provided with to deal with menstruation. Menstruation health enablers include education and awareness, access to products, access to sanitation and policy. These four categories determine how certain areas or countries prioritize menstrual health.

In Africa, one of the largest reasons girls miss school is because of menstruation. When young girls don’t have access to sanitary pads, they often choose to miss school or leave early. Many organizations are working to help mend this disconnect.

 

Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT)

SAT works to improve universal systems for sexual and reproductive health and rights for women in eastern and southern Africa. It does this by pushing for gender equality, community ownership and the agency and aspiration of young girls. For the last twenty years, SAT has worked with local communities, helping to strengthen them enough to improve their response to the HIV epidemic and improve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Its approach helps:

  • Identify its communities better by identifying access to equitable and inclusive health systems.
  • Understand how to invest for impact by identifying low-cost, high-impact solutions.
  • Know how to mobilize for change by mobilizing stakeholders.
  • Learn, monitor and evaluate by promoting a continuous learning process.

Femme International

Femme International believes in empowering women through education by breaking global, menstrual taboos. It also attacks gender disparity by addressing menstrual health and hygienic concerns. It believes that a lack of knowledge is the reason behind the circulation of menstrual myths that continue to shame women globally.

Its most recent success has been with the Twaweza Program, which translates to “we can” in Swahili, that is working in Kenya and Tanzania. The program is taking an education-based approach to tackle menstrual health in Africa.

The program contains the following educational aims and objectives:

  1. Increasing the knowledge of feminine health and hygiene, which is done through interactive activities and discussions and providing accurate answers to people’s questions.
  2. Reducing the rate of girls missing school, which is done through boosting girls’ confidence and providing students with its Femme kits.
  3. Breaking down reproductive taboos, which is done through debunking myths, creating a comfortable conversational environment and opening up conversations with men about women’s health.

Globally, some cultures have developed negative mindsets about menstrual health. With the help of the above organizations and the distribution of proper resources, menstrual health in Africa will continue to improve.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr