Menstrual Hygiene is Key to Global Development

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and breaking the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key. However, a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

MHDay_banner_blue_FBWomen’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. That is almost a full week of class, or 25% of one school month. Think about that… because of periods alone, girls are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

In many countries, periods can be scary because of what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, as I have learned, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women and girls to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period.

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I, myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness.

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a biological function. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of the right to reach one’s full potential. Limiting the potential of essentially half of the world’s population due to menstruation is in itself a fundamental barrier to continued global development.

eng_facebook_girls_1This is one of the many reasons why a day like Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is observed every year on May 28th, is so important. Menstrual Hygiene Day raises awareness around menstrual health, the barriers that people who menstruate face, and the effects that inadequate education, sanitation, and understanding about menstruation can have on women and girls all around the world.

We all need to become advocates for menstruation. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women and girls all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable on their periods. It is clear that menstruation impacts more than just one week of each month in a woman’s life. The menstrual movement is a human movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women—let’s all give power to the period!

 

 

NadyaNadya Okamoto
Nadya Okamoto is an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care–a global nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women through advocacy, education, and service. Nadya founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene. Nadya wants people to understand that everyone deserves to have their natural needs met so they feel ready to achieve their full potential. She is also the Youth Director of Social Venture Partners Youth, is on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, PLAN International USA, and is involved in many other school activities around law practice, politics, and gender equality.

  

Providing Period Care for Pader Girls Academy

This past spring, Diva International Inc. partnered with Lunapads in support of their One4Her program in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. We committed to donate an AFRIpads Kit (5 reusable pads and 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.

This year, thanks to our Divas, we were able to go above and beyond our goal of 500 kits with a total of 524 kits to girls in need!pader

These pads were distributed to the child mothers studying at Pader Girls Academy, in Uganda. The young girls who live at PGA have been victims of rape, coercion or abduction (due to Uganda’s 25-year civil war) and have missed the opportunity to continue their education as child mothers are often stigmatized.

However, with its special day care services and opportunity for vocational and secondary education, PGA is a rare opportunity for these strong young women to continue their education, and learn to advocate for themselves and their families.

Recently, Diva International Inc. received a letter from Denis Ongaya, Deputy Program Director of PGA, expressing his thanks for Diva and Lunapads’ help.

On behalf of the management and students of Pader Girls’ Academy, we sincerely appreciate Lunapads and Diva International Inc. for the support extended to the disadvantaged girls in this school. This support will go a long way to enhancing our on-going efforts in improving learning at the school by increasing convenience to the mothers as they attend classes during their menses.

The Afripads kits were distributed to 229 girls in the school each receiving one kit leaving a balance of 295. The balance is still kept at the school and will be distributed to the vocational students expected to report for non-formal learning in third term 2015.

pader2At Diva International Inc., menstrual hygiene management means a lot to us and we believe that all women deserve to manage their period safely and with dignity. All too often, supplies needed for period care are difficult to find due to poverty and limited resources, but thanks to Lunapads and our Divas we were able to supply these much needed supplies to the young women at PGA.

But the fight is not over. Please take some time to learn about Menstrual Hygiene Day and how you can work to fight poverty, menstrual taboos and how to ensure that women around the world can receive the basic needs they deserve. Together we can show the world that #MenstruationMatters!

Help change a young girl’s life by donating to Pads4Girls or shop to support One4Her today!

 

 

 

 

One4Her provides basic needs to the Pader Girls Academy

photo11823On October 11th, organizations from around the world will come together to draw awareness to International Day of the Girl. This day is set aside each October to advocate for the basic needs and rights of girls and to encourage participation in efforts to help girls reach their full potential.

Diva International works with various organizations to help ensure that all girls, no matter where they live, have access to basic rights – food, clean water, shelter, education and hygiene (including access to feminine hygiene protection). Since 2000, one of our partners, Lunapads has been providing girls with sustainable period care through their Pads4Girls program. Period care is a necessity for women and girls, but is often not accessible due to poverty and limited resources.

This past spring, Diva International Inc. partnered with Lunapads in support of their One4Her program in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. We committed to donate an AFRIpads Kit (complete with 2 pads with 5 inserts, plus 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.

Thanks to our Divas, we were able to pledge funds that totaled 443 kits to girls in need!

This summer Lunapads received a request from Maggie Crosby, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, in the School of Public Health, who was working at the Pader Girls’ Academy (PGA) in Uganda. Knowing about Lunapads and their One4Her program, Maggie requested a more comprehensive AFRIpads for the 250 young mothers at PGA that also included underwear (most girls don’t even own a pair) and soap. After reviewing Maggie’s request, Lunapads and Diva International were pleased to use the funds raised from the Menstrual Hygiene Day One4Her campaign to send 250 comprehensive AFRIpad kits to the young women at PGA.

PGA helps child mothers by making it possible for them to bring their child with them to school. This is unique in Uganda, as often child mothers are stigmatized and going back to school is not an option for them. A survey was conducted to see what the girls would need when it comes to self-care and hygiene and most of the girls requested soap, underwear and pads.

Such basic needs.

The young girls who live at PGA have been victims of rape, coercion or abduction (due to Uganda’s 25-year civil war). At PGA they have been given a rare opportunity to continue their studies while raising their babies in a safe place. These are strong young women who have overcome many challenges, and who are learning to advocate for themselves and their families.

The following is a brief recap from Maggie about how your support of the Menstrual Hygiene Day One4Her campaign has helped women at PGA live better, healthier lives.

PGA 1What do the young mothers currently use to manage their period? How does it affect their schooling when they have their period?

Most girls at PGA use rags or old t-shirts to stuff in their underwear during their period. They do not have any money to afford disposable pads and many cannot even afford underwear. Because of this, if their period soaks through their clothing, they may skip classes to avoid the embarrassment. Each student that I asked about this issue during my time at PGA this summer replied that their lack of hygiene necessities negatively impacts their studies. When asked “what information or resources, relating to sexual and reproductive health, would be most useful to you?” the number one response was “pads”.

The effect of menstruation is so stigmatising on the young mothers. Many of the girls often disassociate themselves from the rest of the students until their period is over, which has a big impact on her performance at the end of the term.

PGA 2How will life improve for them to have the kits?

Owning reusable pads, underwear and soap will have a positive impact on the lives of PGA students. These young women have been robbed of their innocence and their agency – poverty happens to them, sex happens to them, pregnancy happens to them. Possessing the necessary resources for dealing with their periods will provide them with a measure of control over at least one aspect of their life.

Having the kits will also save the girls from a number of negative outcomes of menstruation (a) worries during periods, (b) use of unclean clothes during periods, (c) further infections during periods as a result of using dirty clothes. This will lead to improved performance of the students at school as such better ground for sustainability of the school.

What are their hopes and dreams in going to school?

Students in the vocational training program hope to become seamstresses, to work in hotels or restaurants, or to start their own bakeries or catering businesses. Secondary school students mostly aim to continue their studies in nursing or teaching. They want to be nurses to provide adequate support and care to young mothers and they want to be teachers they can encourage girls to enrol and complete both primary and secondary education. One student told me that she hopes one day to be a member of parliament.

While we still have many girls who are blocked from attaining their educational career due to re-current pregnancies, most girls who have attained admissions at schools demonstrate commitment in their studies.

Help change a young girl’s life by donating to Pads4Girls or shop to support One4Her today!

 

one4herPads4Girls

Since 2000, Lunapads has been operating Pads4Girls, a program that addresses an issue faced by hundreds of millions of girls and women in developing nations: missing school or work for several days every month because they lack adequate means to manage their periods. Providing girls with sustainable menstrual supplies is a simple yet highly effective way to give them a chance for a better future.

In 2012 Lunapads partnered with AFRIpads, a social enterprise in Uganda, to create One4Her. For every eligible product purchased, Lunapads matches that purchase by financing the production and donation of a Ugandan-made AFRIpad to a girl in East Africa.

 

Menstrual Hygiene Management 101

MHDI first learned about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in grad school. A core class in the program centered on global issues and when it came time to writing my final paper, I wanted to tie my research topic on fem hygiene advertising to the theories of the class. I was surprised to learn that there was an entire field of research dedicated to menstrual health and feminine hygiene in the developing world. And even more surprised that I was never taught about the lack of care and support women receive when it comes to their periods.

Within just a few hours of research, I realized just how limited my viewpoint was on the topic of menstrual care internationally. It’s a topic we don’t often hear about, but one that deserves both our attention and resources.

As a new topic for many, the Diva Team thought to take some time to talk about some of the basics of MHM.

According to Wash Untied,

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) starts with the articulation, awareness, and information about menstruation and menstrual hygiene practices.  Women and girls should be able to manage the period in safety, privacy and dignity by i) having  access to and using hygienic materials together with ii) the provision of adequate water and soap for washing and bathing and iii) assuring adequate collection and safe disposal of sanitary products – at home, schools/colleges, institutions, workplace and in public places.

Consider these facts:

  1. A little over half of the world’s female population is of reproductive age and experience a cycle that last between 5-7 days.
  2. In regions where women do not have access to feminine hygiene products, rags, dry leaves, newspaper etc. are often used to manage flow.
  3. UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 African girls miss school during menses, which often leads to a higher dropout rate and missed opportunity.
  4. In countries like Bangladesh, female garment workers are reporting to miss up to 6 days of work because they do not have a way to care for their period.
  5. Many girls in developing countries are not educated about puberty or the menstrual cycle.
  6. In North America women throw away 11,000 tampons/pads throughout their menstruating years – yikes! Many developing countries do not have proper waste disposal infrastructure, which leads to an increase in public waste and hygienic concerns. For this reason reusable options like cloth pads and menstrual cups (where access to clean water and soap is readily available) are ideal solutions for women everywhere.
  7. Taboos surrounding menstruation are still prevalent in countries around the world. For example, 48 % of girls in Iran and 10 % of girls in India believe that menstruation is a disease.

What we can gather from these insights is that MHM is fundamental to advancing education, ensuring health, strengthening the economy, protecting the environment, realizing human rights and changing attitudes of both (men and women).

You can learn more about these key areas by viewing these fact sheets put together by Wash United. We want to welcome all our Divas to play a part in spreading the world about MHM.

On May 28th, 2014 we will be participating in the first ever Menstrual Hygiene Day and you can too! Organized by Wash United, and together with over 100 partners from around the globe, MHD is a global effort to draw attention the women’s right to hygienically manage their periods, no matter where they live.

AFRIpadsIn recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Diva International Inc. has partnered with Lunapads and their One4Her program and have committed to donate an AFRIpads kit for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May (up to 500 kits). To date we have been able to provide over 250 girls with a better way to care for her period for over a year! Help us reach 500 by buying a DivaCup for you or a friend today!

You can also get involved in MHD by sharing the many resources put together by the team at Wash United. Share the MHD infographic and #MenstruationMatters sign to your Facebook or Twitter profile, make a conversation starter bracelet or attend an event! You can also show your support beyond MHD, whether financially or through your time, by giving to one of the incredible organizations who are helping to provide women and girls with accessible and affordable menstrual hygiene products.

Reference Guide: All facts were drawn from the Menstrual Hygiene Day Fact Sheets produced by Wash United. View them here.
1. Menstrual Hygiene Matters. WaterAid, 2012
2. Torondel & Sumpter, 2013
3. Africanews, Sanitary Towels for Kenyan Teenage Schools Girls, 2011. 7. IBID
4. Her Project, Female Factory Workers’ Health Needs Assessment: Bangladesh, 2010
5. Dasgupta & Sarkar, Menstrual Hygiene: How Hygienic is the Adolescent Girl? 2008
6. National Research Center for Women & Families, Tampon Safety, 2010
7. WSSCC, A tide of change in India, 2012

Inspiring Change…

banner---handsThis past weekend women worldwide joined together to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was “Inspiring Change” and the stories and events that surrounded the day were filled with inspiration for a better future (and present day) for women and girls everywhere.

Observed since the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has grown into a worldwide movement with over 1300 scheduled events in 2014 across 78 countries! The Diva Team celebrated the days leading up to International Women’s Day with daily giveaways and organizational spotlights.

With each day’s giveaway our Facebook fans had the opportunity to share what they loved most about being a woman! We received over 600 entries! A few of our favorites include:

“I love being a woman because… I can carry new life inside of me.” – Angie

 

“I love being a woman because… I am beautiful, intelligent and talented!” – Sonia

“I love being a woman because… there’s no limit to what I can do.” – Katie

 

“I love being a woman because… my body is amazing from head to toe!” – Toby

“I love being a woman because… I have awesome curves!” – Jo

 

Each day we also highlighted the great work of organizations whose projects are inspiring change including reproductive education programs, maternal health initiatives, reusable cloth pad distribution and clinical research. Organizations like Plan Canada, the Institute for Reproductive Health, Lunapads’ Pads4Girls Program, Endometriosis Foundation of America and Save the Children are just a few of the many organizations Diva helps to support each year through financial aid and/or social media support.

As we continue with the month’s events we want to encourage all our Divas to do their part in inspiring change for women and girls everywhere, not just today, but everyday. Start small, every little bit counts!

Share how you celebrated International Women’s Day with the Diva Community today!

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