The answer is in the question.
1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school
when she’s on her period.
With menstruation lasting an average 5-7 days per month, that means a girl could be missing 60 days of school a year.
In some cases, girls drop out of school altogether
once they start their period.
The Kindu Trust’s sponsorship is designed to enable disadvantaged children to go to school and continue their education to their full potential. Puberty, and starting your period, is difficult for girls anywhere in the world. For the girls we support this phase is even harder as many cannot afford disposable pads. Even when they can, many schools do not have toilets, so there is nowhere to change during the school day. This leads to girls choosing not to go to school while on their period, and their educations suffers.
So, we asked ourselves, what can the Kindu Trust do to stop the cycle of girls dropping out of school? And the answer is in the question – to help girls get back to school, we first have to help them manage their menstrual cycle.
This autumn we are starting a new project to address this problem, in partnership with Link Ethiopia, our sister organisation that works with schools in Ethiopia, and in conjunction with Days for Girls (DfG), an international charity that provides hygiene packs for girls to “ensure she has what she needs to succeed”.
Days for Girls is an international charity that has been operating since 2008 providing re-usable menstrual hygiene kits to thousands of girls across hundreds of countries. We are benefiting from their experience as the packs have been trialled and evaluated, and are made to very clear specifications to ensure that they are comfortable, secure and attractive. Days for Girls also has a model of training which has been tried and tested. When kits are distributed they are not just handed over, the girls who receive them are trained on how to clean and maintain them so that each kit lasts at least 3 years.
We have an ambitious plan that will 1) respond to the immediate problem by providing kits to girls in school and 2) empower women to make the kits locally.
Meeting the Need
In the first phase we will distribute DfG kits to our sponsored girls through the Kindu Klub and other school clubs. Each kit includes two pads, 8 liners to change the pads, soap and flannel for cleaning the kit, knickers to hold the pads, and Ziploc bags to store the liners once changed, until they can be washed. All bits of the kit are made in just the right fabrics that will be as absorbent as possible or as waterproof, as necessary, while being comfortable to wear. They are all made in brightly coloured, patterned fabrics so that girls can hang them out to dry and carry the container bag around with pride!
Rather than distributing the kit ourselves, we will provide training to local staff and club leaders so that they can give the full distribution training when giving the kits to girls. This means that they can then continue to distribute packs well into the future, and can share their training with other leaders in Ethiopia. We are very pleased that a qualified volunteer from the Days for Girls team in the UK, who makes the kits here, will come to Ethiopia to ‘train the trainers’. She will teach the Girls Club Leaders how to give training when distributing the kits to girls. So when packs are distributed the girls are taught how to use and maintain the DfG kit, and learn about puberty, the menstrual cycle, and related sexual health.
Building a sustainable solution
In the second phase we will focus on setting up a social enterprise in Ethiopia to produce DfG kits locally. We will provide women with the tools to make DfG kits to sell. By reinvesting part of their income to purchase their next batch of materials, women can create a sustainable local source of hygiene products as well as generating an income for themselves and their families.
We will research materials available in Ethiopia in order to make the pads locally, and identify motivated women who will be sent to the Days for Girls University in Uganda to receive complete training on sourcing materials, making the packs and running a business. We will be working closely with DfG for this phase of the project, who have extensive experience in establishing regional hubs to train local women in aspects of production, sales, health education and management of supply chain. This will ensure the sustainability of the programme as women can produce the materials they need for menstrual hygiene themselves, out of local materials, rather than relying on external donations. It will invest in the local economy and build up a new business, providing a profession and income for female entrepreneurs.
If you want to help get these projects underway, you can make a donation!
Skilled with a sewing machine? You can get directly involved in sewing the DfG kits which we give to girls in Ethiopia through one of Days for Girls’ local chapters click here for more info.
All this will empower girls to manage their menstrual health with dignity, knowledge and pride! It will give them back their school days, put them on an equal footing and enable girls to take advantage of each school day!