GladRags is proud to partner with Empower Women in Africa to help bring economic and educational opportunities to women and girls in rural Namibia. We believe that education is the key to improving the lives of women and girls in impoverished communities. Click here to listen to a radio interview with Tracy Puhl of GladRags and Lori Schippers of EWA about this important partnership.
What if having your period meant you couldn't go to school? For many girls in countries around the world, missing school due to a lack of menstrual supplies is a sad reality that can lead to falling behind in school and eventually ending their studies altogether.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stressed the importance of educating young women in a 2004 speech:
"There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, or improve nutrition and promote health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS."
Providing girls with something as simple as menstrual supplies may seem like a small step, but imagine what could happen if we closed the gender gap in education! You can help by purchasing an Empower Kit, which contains 5 Day Pads and 1 Carry Bag, to be shipped directly to Empower Women in Africa to distribute to women and girls in need. Thank you!
When donating items to developing countries, it's important to remember the environmental impact of your donation. In many countries, trash is piled and periodically burned -- so donating disposable pads would have a huge impact on the local waste system. Additionally, donating reusable pads reduces dependence on donors. Once a girl has enough GladRags for her cycle, she won't need to rely on a new supply being donated each month!
We sent several questions to the girls at Andara to hear what they think of their new reusable menstrual pads. Here are some of their responses:
When you have to change a pad at school, what do you do?
When I change my pad at school, I used to put the one with blood in the plastic bag and put it in my school bag. After school then I do the wash. I also put on the clean one. – Richildis Ntoma (18 years old)
How do you wash and dry them?
I wash with soap and clean water, and put outside so that it can dry. – Hairwa Ingrid Pakela (18 years old)
What would you use if you didn’t have these pads?
Toilet paper, cotton, mattress, leaf of banana. – Kapira Godwina (grade 9)
Do you prefer the reusable pads or the disposable pads from the shop? Which is more comfortable?
The reusable pads. – Thikoka Kunyima (16 years old)
Are you happy with having these reusable pads?
Yes we are. – Siyanga Zitha (grade 9)
written by Lori Schippers, founder of Empower Women in Africa and former Peace Corps volunteer at Andara Combined School in Namibia
A 15 year old learner called me over to her desk during 4th period math class.
“Madam, my skirt is not OK.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“My menstruation,” and she stood up discretely to show me the stain on her skirt. I left the classroom to ask other teachers about the appropriate protocol for this situation arising in the middle of the school day. I was told, “She has to go home.” And home she went, with her skirt turned around backwards and books in front of the stain hiding it.
I didn’t see her for a week.
Girls regularly miss school in the developing world because they don’t have access to sanitary options during their period. The family’s money is used for survival. Food is bought and there is nothing left for a girl to buy pads to be able to attend school during her period.
I asked around, “What do you use during your menstruation?” Nothing. A cloth. Toilet paper. A towel. Nothing.
I did some research and found GladRags in Portland. They hosted me on their website and I started sending emails to everyone I knew. They forwarded those emails to everyone they knew. And they kept getting sent. I hoped to raise 250 reusable cloth menstrual pads through donations over the course of 2 months.
It took 2 days.
I doubled my goal to 500 pads. I met that 3 days later. I was raising 100 pads a day to give to the girls who had become my family.
In the end, after two months were up, I had raised 1368 reusable cloth menstrual pads, donated by my family, my friends, friends of my family and friends, and some by complete strangers.
The first 600 of those pads were donated on Valentine’s Day 2011 to 200 girls at Andara Combined School. More will go to Omuthitu Combined school and the rest to Omaruru Adolescent Clinic.
I was inspired by the love so many people showed the girls in Namibia. I was moved to take even bigger action.
Empower Women in Africa, Inc. was created. A donation is a great gift, but it reaches only a small population in need. By working with local women to create a small business making and selling reusable cloth menstrual pads, women will be earning an income and girls and women will be able to buy a product locally that is not yet available, creating change for the sellers and the buyers.
We are no longer accepting requests for donations. However, we are able to offer discounted pricing to bulk orders to be distributed to women in need. Please submit a request for more information via our Contact Page.
Thank you, GladRags, for offering these opportunities to make a donation. I don't often feel I get to make much impact globally, but have loved getting to contribute in some small way, thanks to your participation with these programs.