REUSABLE SANITARY PADS PROJECT TO SUPPORT VULNERABLE GIRLS AT SHINGIRO VILLAGE

Rwanda 2021

In their village vulnerable girls are trained in making on their own reusable pads

  1. 1.   INTRODUCTION

1.1         Background

Adolescence is a crucial stage of life and one that is challenging for most girls because of its physical and psychological changes. One of the major physiological changes in adolescent girls is menstruation. Today in Rwanda menstruation is not only a health concern, but also an educational policy concern and has become a key factor in the country’s bid to achieve both the National Goal and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education.

Menstrual hygiene, which refers to the effective management of menstrual bleeding by women and girls, is an important aspect of reproductive health, which if not handled appropriately can cause infections of the urinary tract, pelvic inflammatory diseases and vaginal thrush, as well as unpleasant odor, soiled garments and ultimately shame, leading to infringement on the girls’ dignity. For young girls, hitting menarche is a critical time and can be marred with confusion, lack of knowledge and tools in addressing this milestone in one’s life. Many young girls are thus not prepared for the physical, emotional and societal changes that come with adolescence.

1.2         OUR VILLAGES

We are targeting three villages: Rwinuma, Cyimbazi and Byimana. All villages are located in Northern Province of Rwanda, Musanze district, Shingiro sector.

This Sector of Shingiro where the three villages are located is the poorest sector in Rwanda. As elsewhere in Rwanda, people survive mostly through agriculture (more than 80% of Rwanda’s population). Due to historical volcanic eruption in the area, the place is full of stones! People do not have enough land for agricultural activities (Population density in Rwanda is 525 per km²). Another fact is that it was in that area where the 1990 war against Rwanda by former refugees started. That war culminated in 1994 genocide. During this period, most of people went to Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) for refuge. In 1996-1997 the villages’ area was again under guns fire: armed attack to Rwanda by defeated army plus new recruited soldiers organized from RDC: some of them were involved in genocide. This instability and other natural factors led to the lasting social economic vulnerability. 

To survive there is need of natural fertilizer from cows, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbit, and pigs rearing. Modern fertilizers are expensive. For the young people, they are encouraged to focus on livestock and poultry. Then the available land can be more productive while using natural fertilizers.

Adolescent and young girls from poor families have been affected. Some direct effects are: illiteracy, lack of hygienic, school dropout, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, HIV/SIDA, etc.

1.3 TRUE STORIES

  • CASE: ISINGIZWE Carine, 14 years old: She dropped out from the school while she was in secondary Year 4. Lack of pads during her menstrual periods and stigma led her to drop out from the school. If supported she would like resume her studies.
  • ISHIMWE Honorine story
From left to the right: Social worker, ISHIMWE Honorine and the husband of the social worker.

“I have been trying to figure out whether I am a child or an adult. Whenever I think about this, I begin crying; especially when I see my agemates live normal lives and being treated with love by their parents.” ISHIMWE Honorine stated.

While many communities joined the International Commemoration of the Day of the African Child in June 2020, with a commitment to protect children from violence, ISHIMWE Honorine 16, from RWINUMA village, Musanze District in the North of Rwanda, stayed home, hiding from the villagers because she was pregnant.

Beside the general pervasive atmosphere, she was also enduring the harsh reality of becoming a mother at 16 years. When her parents learned that she was pregnant, they almost banished her from home, yet the man responsible for the pregnancy, had fled their village.

As the storm gathered, ISHIMWE was gripped with more fear when she realized that she was still under her parents’ care and could not move to start a family with a man who had already rejected her pregnancy.

“How dare you get pregnant? How do you forget the poor life we are living? How will I be able to feed you, your sisters, and your child with my small income?” ISHIMWE Mother said with an angry tone.

She felt guilty that her mother had to sell their only goat to contribute to her medical bills and other needs during her pregnancy.

 “I cried, as I had nothing to tell my mother. Our family is very poor, my parents were already struggling to provide enough food, and to pay for school materials, and health insurance.” said ISHIMWE.

ISHIMWE’s story is not different from many other teenage girls in MUSANZE District. This situation leaves the young mothers vulnerable to many social ills, including school dropout, poverty, gender-based violence, and sexually transmitted infections.

  • 2.               REUSABLE SANITARY PADS LOCALLY MADE PROJECT

Most adolescent girls miss school during menses and eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues, such as the inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection, the social taboos related to menstruation, and the culture of silence that surrounds it.

 There are physiological and symptomatic challenges that girls go through during their menstrual cycle, which also hinder their full access to education as well as stop them from fully enjoying activities with others. For instance, before the onset of menstruation, adolescent girls can experience tension, depression, tiredness and irritability symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, which affects the way adolescent girls relate to other students in school and their teachers.

2.1         Purpose of the project

The main aim of the project is to find out the effects of provision of training on how making sanitary pads, sexual health and hygienic safety on performance of young and adolescent girls and their involvement in social economic activities in their communities.

2.2         Methodology

Young and adolescent girls, starting from 9 to 18 years old, have been trained into small groups of 8 girls (average).Each group will be trained within three sessions, two times per week from 15.00 to 17.30 local time. Participants have 6 facilitators (practical sessions on how making reusable sanitary pads) and two health, and social workers on sexual health and hygienic safety.

Training are organized into sessions, theoretical sessions on sexual health and hygienic safety sessions and practical sessions on how making and use reusable sanitary pads.

2.3         The project participants and expected achievements

46 girls participants, 6 ladies social workers and one project manager and counselor.

In schoolYoung mothersDropout
112312

POSITIVE EXPECTED OUTCOMES

  • The existence of reusable sanitary products initiative is improving health and education outcomes in adolescent girls at our school.  
  • The level of absenteeism in adolescent girls is becoming lower and this will continue if there are adequate hygienic facilities and products.
  • The higher the access to sanitary products available at G.S.SHINGIRO, the less incidence rates of dropouts and absenteeism and urogenital infections.
  • Mental health service will allow the girls to open up and discuss any issues they face and overcome them with the right support.

2.4 COMMUNITY HEALTH SOCIAL WORKERS

Project community health and social 6 workers: From right to left: Gentille MUKAKALISA, Gloriosa MUKAFUREMU, Josephine NYIRANDAYAMBAJE, Mediatrice MUTUYIMANA, Nadine UFITINEMA, Renatha UFITINEMA, and Marie Odette NYIRANKUMBUYE

Community health and Social Workers Tasks

 On a normal day, a social worker’s schedule generally includes some of the following:

Meeting with Clients: listening to them and perspectives on their progress

This often manifests itself as helping clients adjust after life-altering experiences like divorce, job loss or illness.

Responding to Emergencies

Social workers are responsible for responding to the immediate and sometimes chaotic events that come up in their client’s lives. Crises don’t necessarily happen every day, but social workers must be able to respond calmly and with advice that is helpful. Since a basic responsibility of social workers is to help people cope with their lives, this includes the times when clients need them the most.

Evaluating and Connecting With Other Services

A huge part of a social worker’s job is to act as a liaison with other human services and organizations and their clients. This includes evaluating how these other organizations and agencies provide for people in need as well as providing access to these resources.

Advocating for Clients

Advocacy takes many shapes when it comes to social work. It can be on a personal level: advocating for a victim of abuse in a domestic violence situation, for example. Social workers can be legal advocates for children in abusive homes or individuals in recovery from addiction. Public advocacy includes providing a voice and raising awareness for their clients, a specific issue or the social work profession in general.

  • 3.               Social workers have a variety of responsibilities that require skills and knowledge in order to be successful
  • 4.                SEXUAL HEALTH AND HYGIENIC SAFETY EDUCATION

A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that there are many challenges menstruating girls face in school environments. These include a lack of adequate, clean, safe, private toilets with water and disposal mechanisms for used menstrual materials, a lack of information, guidance and support on their changing bodies and new menstrual management needs, and insufficient materials for managing monthly menstrual flow.

During their training, participants discuss with a health worker various interesting topics: Menstruation cycle and hygiene, reproductive health, puberty, reducing risk of sexually transmitted infections, prevention of unintended pregnancies and HIV/AIDS, and types of contraceptive methods.

Reusable sanitary pads are produced to be, as well as hygienic. Therefore, maintenance must be done correctly to avoid breeding for bacteria and infections. Proper care of sanitary pad shows that they mitigate the risk of urogenital infections. Proper care involves the washing and drying of the sanitary towels in dry heat/sunlight with having them stored in clean dry areas for reuse to avoid contamination.

                                  TESTIMONIAL

MUKAFUREMU Gloriose, Bachelor’s degree in animal medicine and certified community health social worker- CYIMBAZI and BYIMANA villages.

“I am a local community health worker from SHINGIRO. Together with Damien NKUBANA we have formed a club of economically vulnerable young/adolescent girls, and of teen mothers. We meet two times per week to discuss various challenges they face in the community: reproductive health and services, including access to antenatal care, prevention of unintended pregnancy, delivery at the health center, and making a plan for a healthy future after delivery.”

  • 5.               BEYOND SANITARY PADS PROJECT: FUTURE PLANS

To address adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health, the introduction of comprehensive, multifaceted programs is believed to counter the negative effects of poor menstrual hygiene and the knowledge gaps to people and community.

Women financial empowerment for sustainable development:

  • More pads supply to help more girls in needs
  • School fees and school materials to help girls resuming their studies
  • Chickens project
  • One goat/sheep per vulnerable girl
  • Small trade initiatives(fruits and vegetables trade)

By Damien NKUBANA

Note from admin: The reusable sanitary pads project at G.S. Shingiro – Rwanda 2021 – AVASARA Foundation is what started this project. PEARLS Rwanda will now carry this project to completion.

Thank you to AVASARA Foundation.