Breaking taboos and changing lives

Timothy has never had to miss school because of a menstrual cycle; in fact, he used to make fun of girls who would. So why did he join his female class mates in making re-usable sanitary pads?

‘I realised what our sisters go through, and now, I am willing to support and participate in the making of re-usable sanitary pads, so that they can stay in school and complete their education.’

A similar sentiment was shared by the rest of Timothy’s male friends who attended the I AM GIRL information session at Jehovah Jireh Primary School; and they are not alone. Boys, girls, male and female teachers and community members, in over 30 schools, have attended health talks which address menstrual hygiene management, misconceptions, myths and cultural beliefs.

In addition to these health talks, the communities were taught how to make re-usable menstrual pads (RUMPs). Initially, RUMPs were distributed to school girls in the most vulnerable communities; however, considering the universal need in every community, it has proved highly successful to teach all girls and women to make their own sanitary pads. This has resulted in positive change, in terms of attitude, community participation and sustainability.

When a primary six pupil, at Treasured Kids Primary School, started teaching her sisters and neighbourhood friends how to hand make RUMPs, her father was so impressed that he decided to send her to the village to train her mother so she could utilize it as an income generating activity.

Similarly, when the Fields of Life team visited Balibaseka Secondary School and presented them with sewing machines, tape measures, thread and hand sewing needles from the Coleraine I AM GIRL Team, the entire school turned up and were very excited to receive these gifts. The school uses these materials to make RUMPS, but also to implement a skills development programme for both girls and boys within the community.

The I AM GIRL programme is not only keeping girls in school but also reforming traditional cultural beliefs about menstruation.