Imagine being a young female, whose life comes to a standstill each month because she lacks access to feminine hygiene products.
This is a reality for around 85% of Tanzanian schoolgirls between the ages of 11-19. A number of trailblazing St Jude’s students are working to change that statistic.
The courageous girls were inspired to make reusable pads for their Science Fair project.
Kilimba, Veronica and Zamda, with a number of their peers, decided to take on the challenging task after attending a seminar and meeting like-minded students from other schools.
“There were girls at the seminar who had made pads on a tailoring machine. We asked our teachers if we could do the same thing,” Kilimba said.
“Some people use kanga (soft material) when their period comes, but it is uncomfortable and not hygienic. The girls in the villages sit on ash or stiff porridge while they have their periods. They cannot do any activities and they miss out on school. They sit on the ash or porridge until the period goes away,” she shared.
The students’ washable, durable pads are made from common household items.
“We had two pieces of cloth, we cut them in the shape of the sanitary pads and used plastic to make sure it doesn’t leak. Then, we put part of an old mattress or some cotton wool in the middle and we sewed it together,” Veronica explained.
Empathy and compassion compelled the young women to design a product which would benefit girls in village communities.
“We care because we feel sad that girls can’t go to school when they are on their period. And, we just imagine – who could that person become if she had the chance to sit a national examination? That’s why we made the pads,” Kilimba, Veronica and Zamda agreed.
School Registrar, Girls’ Affairs and Character Management Mistress, Ms Pendo, appreciates her students’ bravery and willingness to tackle a taboo cultural issue.
“This is a girls’ issue and Kilimba thought more deeply about it. When we get our first periods, our mothers tell us we are grownups and that we must stay away from boys. This is the only information most girls receive. There are cultural boundaries,” Ms Pendo said.
Students at St Jude’s are grateful for the support of staff like Ms Pendo, who give them knowledge and advice and encourage girls to ask questions. Ms Pendo also works with the school nurses to provide sanitary items to students who need them.
“We are comfortable because at least we know how to look after ourselves and we can grow in confidence and perform academically at St Jude’s,” Zamda said.
Indeed, the students know that knowledge is power.
“We want to find support and go to villages where people can’t afford pads.
We will give away our reusable pads and visit churches, schools and families to provide knowledge,” the students claimed.
“It’s really important to give knowledge instead of money. For this issue, it is better to give education. Education can help people.”
St Jude’s supporters who are Fighting Poverty Through Education, empower students like Kilimba, Veronica and Zamda to do the same for others. You too can become a sponsor and help us break the cycle of poverty.