For girls in developing countries, menstruation often means missing a week of school every month. When your family struggles to put food on the table, the purchase of disposable sanitary products is impossible.
Girls use old clothing, dirty rags, or even leaves to manage their periods, however these methods are both dangerous to their health and difficult to conceal, often leading to shame and girls being targeted with violence.
Here are 10 things girls can do when they have sanitary pads:
1) Go to school: 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school due to menstruation. When a girl doesn’t have access to sanitary pads, she starts missing a few days of school every month, she falls behind, and she may eventually drop out. Sanitary pads allow girls to attend school without fear of leaks or accidents
2) Restore dignity: Menstruation is a natural and routine part of life for healthy girls and women, but in many parts of the world, it is accompanied by shame and fear. Cultural myths about menstruation are barriers to open discussion and societal support. Sanitary pads allows women to take care of themselves, stay clean and comfortable during their menses, which restores their confidence, independence and dignity.
3) Start a conversation to empower other girls: Knowledge is power. When women are educated about their sexual reproductive health they can share the information with their community.
4) Understand their bodies: Girls who receive Help Lesotho’s reusable sanitary kits participate in a comprehensive education session where they learn about menstruation – namely that it is a totally normal thing that all healthy girls and women experience! They learn how to stay healthy and hygienic as they enter womanhood. The girls are also given the opportunity to ask questions, because with many of these girls growing up orphaned and alone, they don’t have anyone to ask even the most basic questions of.
5) Be active: sanitary pads allow girl to continue participating in sports, community gatherings and social events instead of staying home in shame during their menses.
6) Save the environment: Reusable sanitary pads eliminate waste! Disposable feminine hygiene products are either incinerated, which releases harmful gasses and toxic waste, or sent to the landfill where they take hundreds of years to break down. Each kit Help Lesotho distributes lasts up to three years, or 150 days of coverage and eliminates three years of waste.
7) Stay healthy: when girls use unsanitary pieces of cloth or rags during their period, they expose themselves to numerous diseases caused by fungi or bacterias. Help Lesotho’s sanitary kits include 8 reusable pad liners, soap to wash them and ziploc bags to transport them to and from school hygienically and discreetly inside a beautiful drawstring bag – until they are able to wash at home and dry in the sunlight to kill germs.
8) Break gender stereotypes: In many low-income countries, there is a culture of silence which surrounds menstruation. This is compounded by the limited resources available to help women manage their periods, which limits women’s potential and perpetuates gender inequalities. Sanitary pads empower women to live up to their fullest potential.
9) Impact her community: Keeping girls in school is important to health and development—not only for the girls but for their communities and countries. When girls are empowered, they become contributing members of society and share their resources, ideas and knowledge with their communities to make it a better place. You educate a girl and you change the world.
10) Stop the spread of HIV: When girls stay in school, they are less likely to get HIV infection, their potential earnings go up, teenage pregnancy rates go down, and the children they have later in life are healthier
Re-useable sanitary pads give girls a brighter future – they are given back days of education, work, health, safety and dignity.
Help Lesotho is purchasing washable sanitary kits for girls in Lesotho (made by local women) so they can stay in school while menstruating. Each kit gives a girl 150 days—equivalent to 3 years—where she has the supplies to focus on her education rather than worrying about menstruation.