Impact : Volta Region
1. Inform Phase:
We gave Menstrual Health Management (MHM) talks and covered other topics such as sexual harassment, consent and taboos. The girls were more than excited to see the new innovation. This phase helps to normalise the idea of the cup by tearing down taboos and getting the local community talking about it.
"I can't cook when I'm menstruating"
"I can't touch my brothers if I am in my menses."
"A girl shouldn't use the same bucket as her husband to bath when she is menstruating (...) because she is dirty"
" If a man sees period blood it will make him fall ill or cause him to have bad luck"
"Someone will steal my pad and use it in a ritual to curse me"
In a survey at one school we found that over 50% of the girls had formerly missed school due to their period. Although lower than the national average, this number is still too high and is alarming.
Statistics from some of the schools we have visited: Sex-Ed
88.9% did not know the age of consent
57.5% did not know where to get support in case of sexual harassment
65.9% knew nothing about contraception
At the mixed schools, we spoke to both the boys and the girls about these taboos that surround menstruation.
The go away message:
Taboos are common amongst the girls and so tearing away at them is so important to normalise the idea of the period. Here were some of the common concerns that the girls raised with us.
We ensured that at each school we visited there was a form of Pastoral Care for the girls or a Girls Club leader. We gave the teachers proper menstrual health management lessons so that they would be able to best support the girls.
We did work with Marie Stopes International to explain to the girls why they should stay in education. The girls were encouraged to not have sex without contraception.
Abstinence is the best form of prevention - especially in rural communities were access to contraceptives is limited.
A toll-free helpline number was given to the school pastoral team and also to all of the girls.
2. Introduction Phase:
We then began our introduction phase as we distributed cups to various schools.
Here we explained to the girls how to use the cup and explained how it is inserted into the vagina. At first, there were gasps and wary glances that came from the crowd. However, when they heard that the single cup would last them up to 10 years and that it wouldn't interrupt their school day, what had been nervous murmurs quickly turned to sparks of opportunity and excitement.
Another benefit of the cup was that it produced no waste. Many of the girls find disposing the pad difficult due to the high presence of spirituality and black magic within their communities. They worry that used sanitary products are used for rituals and that they can be used to curse them. The cup lifts this burden.
Many girls said that they normally resorted to using tissue or missed school as they couldn't afford pads. Some girls even said that they had sex in exchange for pads. So they were very happy to get the cups. Their smiles were truly contagious.
We have so far given talks to over 800 girls and have helped provide over 160 girls with sanitary cups. Volunteers, along with the school pastoral teams, will be checking up on the girls for the next three months to ensure that they are comfortable using the cups.
3. Integration Phase
We are currently in the process of initiating our integration phase.
- We have created a Menstrual Health Management Manual that can be given to schools for them to teach menstrual health education properly.
- Other aspects such as WASH facilities and private cubicles and toilets are also aspects we are looking into implementing.
- Finally we intend to make cups and other forms of hygienic sanitary items more accessible to young girls.
Education should not be restricted to those who can afford sanitary products.
With your support we can help make these communities a place where boys and girls have equal chances to excel. Investing in these girls will not only empower them but it will also contribute to economic growth at both a local and national level.
Every extra year in education increases earning power by between 10-20%.
And when the percentage of women with secondary education increases by 1% the annual per capita economic growth increases by 0.3%