Written by Iyamide Cole
Did you know that pre-covid19 there were about 49.5 million girls who were out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa? Or 1 out of 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses 3-5 days of school a month because of her menstrual cycle? This equals a 20-25% absence rate monthly which causes them to fall behind in their studies and eventually drop out of school, hence the inability to complete their education.
Some of them manage to attend classes during their periods without any sanitary pads and they end up being ridiculed by their male peers, teachers, and community members when they get stained. This shouldn’t be so, but there is a lot of misinformation, stigma, and shame surrounding menstruation and periods, that if people aren’t properly educated about this natural occurrence which happens in the lives of young girls and women, the vicious cycle of shame, ridicule and the inability to function properly within society would be continuous.
In some cultures, periods are seen as a punishment for bad behavior, while others wrongly believe that it is a symptom of HIV. About a year ago, it was reported that a 14yr old Kenyan school girl in Kabiangek, west of Nairobi got her first period in class and was ridiculed by her male teacher, who went ahead to call her dirty and eventually expelled her from class. She went home and committed suicide.
This is a terminology some people are not familiar with, is the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools such as sanitary pads, underwear, soap, etc. and education (menstrual health, waste management, etc.) In place of sanitary pads, some girls use dry leaves, chicken feathers, sand, pieces of foam from mattresses, banana skins, newspaper, old clothes/rags, cow dung, and other things to stem the bleeding.
In some cases, the girls dig a hole in the ground and sit in it or are confined to an outside hut until their period is over. They are ostracized from basic activities, eating certain foods, and socializing. For these girls, periods are isolating and lead to traumatic experiences which cause a lot of embarrassment and shame. In many cases, it leads to anxiety and depression.
Period Poverty is preventing millions of adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa from attending school regularly and graduating. There is inadequate access to sanitary products, forcing these girls to stay home, fall behind, and eventually drop out of school to become child brides and teenage mothers. Most times young girls and women are forced into trading sex for sanitary pads. Thus, putting them at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV in addition to getting pregnant. Sadly the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the challenges that these girls face and most of them have lost access to the few, if any resources that were available to them previously.
Hence my motivation to bring about awareness on this social issue.
My name is Iyamide and I started a community initiative called Change for Change where I encourage people to donate their change to help change the narrative of millions of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who are suffering from period poverty. The reason is simple. Sanitary products are essential and should not be a luxury. When we think of donations, we think of huge sums of money and that holds us back from giving but our change is important as well because little drops of water make the mighty ocean.
The fact is periods don't stop for pandemics. As school resumes all over the world, these girls living considerably below the poverty line in Sub-Saharan Africa mustn't be forgotten or neglected. The purpose of this campaign is to donate our change to raise money that will be used to provide sanitary kits, school supplies, and in some cases food for these girls. This will help them focus on their studies and stay in school. No amount is too small. There are various giving options so that you can participate regardless of your geographical location. Please see below and check out our website for more information. Also, follow our Instagram page for periodic updates.
Thank you for partnering with us to make an impact in the lives of these girls and changing the narrative with your change.
Few ways you can donate:
Don’t stop here, click this link to explore more on our social issues segment. Also, remember to share this article with as many people as you can so we can make a difference together.
About the author: Iyamide is a life strategist, big sister, super friend, and speaker. She is passionate about helping people navigate life successfully, overcome challenges, and become the best versions of themselves. She has extensive experience as a mentor for at-risk young girls and would love to be able to assist those in dire need who are in life-threatening situations.
Iyamide loves to learn about other cultures through travel and food. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, cooking, and public speaking. She comes from a close-knit family and believes that a great support system is one of the keys to success. Iyamide is working hard to fulfill her dream of championing girl’s education by removing the barriers that prevent young girls from going to school, graduating, and taking over the world.