Written by Sarah Fennel Buchannan: RETORE Humanity!
Today is International Women’s Day, which means it is time again for our “Support Other Women Period” campaign! Last year we were able to provide maxi pads for almost almost 500 girls for the entire year and this year we are kicking it up to 750! The high school population that we support just keeps growing, so we have to grow with it.
The women of Restore Humanity believe the best way to celebrate International Women’s Day is for each of us to look at other women and find out what they really need–and then find effective ways to help provide it. Here in the US our focus tends to be on the necessity for our equality, respect, and opportunity–and rightfully so! However, we are remiss if we fail to notice the huge chasm between groups of women when it comes to more basic needs. And what could be more basic, or more of a woman’s issue than our periods? AH! Yes I said it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of ladies. Half of the world’s population deals with this one week out of every month, so we should be able to talk about it.
While “lady-time” is no picnic for anyone, for millions of women and girls worldwide it means so much more than discomfort. Millions of women and girls do not have access to maxi pads or tampons at all simply because they cannot afford them. However, every woman knows that nature will still take its course and “Aunt Flo” is coming whether you want her to or not. So unfortunately these girls and women have to use things like mud, sticks, leaves, pieces of a foam mattress, or old rags to try to manage their cycles. Not only do these things not work, they sometimes cause harmful infections.
The statistics are staggering. For example, some estimates say that the average girl in Kenya misses 4.9 days of school every month, every single month of the school year. That means they’re missing at least 20% of their school year due to lack of maxi pads! That is just unacceptable. Period.
In 2012 I met with the girl students at Sirembe Secondary School (In Kenya) to talk about life and being a girl. At some point our discussion turned to the issue of schoolgirls having sex with older men, which is a problem for many reasons, not the least of which is the rapid spread of HIV. I asked them why girls were doing this and the first answer I got was “they do it to get money to buy things like maxi pads.” My jaw hit the floor. As I was leaving I asked them if there was one thing that I could do to help them, what would it be? Unanimously they said “Please buy us maxi pads.”
Since then Restore Humanity has provided maxi pads for the girls at Sirembe Secondary School, even as their population has continued you grow rapidly. When we first started it was less than 100 girls and now it is 596! While getting them pads was the most important thing, the impact on the environment was always in the back of our mind. The plastic in maxi pads is non-biodegradable which means they stay in landfills for about 800 years! So if we buy pads for 596 girls each month, and if each girl uses that pack of 12 every month, that is 7,152 pads thrown away each month and 85,824 per year from just one high school in rural Kenya! (432 million pads are disposed of each month globally).
The good news last year was that we found another way! An incredible social business in Uganda called Afripads makes reusable maxi pads that last for an entire year and they are amazing! They employ close to 200 people in Uganda and upwards of 95% of them are women (in all levels of the business). They partner with nonprofits and women’s groups and have reached over a million women and girls with their products.
A packet of Afripads contains 3 daytime pads and 1 nighttime pad and a storage bag. This packet costs around $5 and it lasts for an entire year. I have tested them out myself and feedback from all the girls last year was all positive! They are really comfortable, they actually work really well, and they’re also really easy to wash and take care of! There are so many reasons why we love this program and here are just a few:
- We help girls be safe, stay in school, and manage their periods with confidence and comfort.
- We help the environment in a big way.
- We support a social business in Africa that employs almost 200 women.
So pretty much it is a win, win, win, win. How could it get any better than that?!?
HERE IS WHERE YOU COME IN
We want to buy 750 packets of Afripads at the end of this month–600 for the High School in Sirembe, Kenya (where all of our projects are located) and 150 for the primary school girls in 7th and 8th grade. Again, this packet will last these girls ALL YEAR!
We need to raise $3,600 by March 31st. So our goal is to get 100 people to give $36 each! Of course you can always give more and if you you cannot give that much, please know that every little bit helps. Let us all celebrate the month of women by supporting those of us who need it the most!