For many girls, getting their first period can be an uneasy and tumultuous time. It is often accompanied by significant emotional changes, along with an onslaught of uncomfortable physical symptoms. But for some girls around the world who don’t have access to menstrual supplies, their first period also means they are no longer able to attend school, resulting in a high incidence of illiteracy and poverty among young women. In places like Kenya and Uganda, this is especially troubling, as many girls can end up in sex work or forced marriages.
Last month, HerStory participants Patience, 14 and Kashish, 13, arrived in New York from Uganda for the Global HerStory Summit, determined to pave the way for change in their local community. They brought with them their Community Action Plan, called “Girls for School,” which aims to teach girls to sew and distribute reusable pads from fabric, allowing them to stay in school. Additionally, they plan to educate their local community (including boys!) about period hygiene, facts and stigma.
During the week, Patience and Kashish, along with their mentor Susan, strengthened their CAP and learned more about implementing their plan once they returned to Uganda. Both girls agreed that their time in New York left them feeling more confident and encouraged to move forward with their project and were excited about the opportunity to help so many girls stay in school and, ultimately, achieve their dreams.
Since returning to Uganda, the girls have been busy procuring materials, perfecting their designs and brainstorming ideas for making the process more efficient. Once they’ve determined the best strategy, they will begin teaching the other girls in their community how to make them as well. When asked what Patience and Kashish need to make their CAP successful, they both agreed that they need access to materials and support from their mentors, community leaders and school personnel who can help incorporate their CAP among more girls.
Patience and Kashish hope their CAP will help young women in their community complete their education and feel empowered to dream big. “The illiteracy rate will drop and many women will be doctors and lawyers and help their communities to develop,” says Patience, “this world is now for women. We hope our plan will help girls to have freedom and enjoy their rights all over the world.”
Want to help Patience and Kashish and other girls like them? Find out how.