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Impact: Dignity Period

There are many barriers to education for girls and one of those can be puberty.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF have acknowledged that there is a significant link between the poor provision of menstrual hygiene solutions and low female participation in education. Improving girls’ access to proper menstruation hygiene has the power to lead to improved education, health and overall wellbeing of girls and women, but too little is being done to fight these stigmas.

Just imagine what a difference it would make if women worldwide had a sense of ownership over their menstrual cycles instead of confusion, embarrassment and shame? Imagine if no girl was forced to miss significant portions of her education due to lack of adequate menstrual hygiene resources or experience negative cultural attitudes towards a normal function of female reproductive biology? This is what Dignity Period aims to achieve in Ethiopia through education, research and stigma-fighting outreach.

That said, it’s no surprise that Dignity Period was a Circle of Sisterhood grant recipient of $5,000 in 2015-2016 to launch its Menstrual Dignity Project and $10,000 again in 2017-2018 to expand those efforts. The program, which provides affordable, high-quality sanitary pads to girls and women, and educates and instructs girls in primary and secondary schools, simultaneously helps to increase the level of knowledge about menstruation in local communities for women and men.

Like in many countries and cultures worldwide, major barriers to menstrual hygiene management in rural Ethiopia include the lack of financial resources and negative taboos surrounding menstruation. As a result, menstruating girls often stay home from school 3-5 days per month, fall behind in their studies and ultimately end up dropping out. It’s a tragic loss of human potential – and frankly one that no country can afford.

In 2015-2016, the expanded Menstrual Dignity Program had reached nearly 20,000 students (9,966 males and 10,033 females) in 42 of the 100 participating Ethiopian schools. With a goal of reaching the remaining 58 schools (approximately 40,000 students) in 2017-2018 with the help of the additional funds, it’s safe to say that Dignity Period has delivered. The organization reported reaching 73,197 in schools in the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia by June 2018. In just a year, the total number of beneficiaries comprised 10,000 students attending 18 schools in Tigray region – two more than the 16 originally planned.

Here are some of the specific actions Dignity Period has taken to impact Ethiopian communities with the grant money provided by Circle of Sisterhood:  

  • Coordinated an agreement with the Miriam Seba Sanitary Products Factory for production of menstrual pads and underwear;
  • Communicated with the Tigray Regional Educational Bureau to identify participating schools;
  • Achieved commitments from 100 schools to participate;
  • Secured required personnel to oversee the logistics of menstruation products and pamphlet distribution;
  • Scheduled and carried out educational outreach demonstrations to participating school;
  • Created an efficient delivery schedule and secure transportation;
  • Delivered and distributed menstruation products and pamphlets to each participating school, providing instruction for the use and maintenance of reusable menstrual pads.

Dignity Period has made huge strides with the funds that CofS has been able to provide over the years, but their work is far from done. The organization has a challenging, but worthwhile goal of reaching every remaining primary and secondary school in the rural Tigray region of Ethiopia. With harsh terrains and difficult geographic locations paired with limited school representatives to carry out solutions, Dignity Period is poised to rise to the occasion and thanks to the generosity of our donors, CofS is honored to help make this possible.

Eighteen-year-old Medina is one of the beneficiaries of Dignity Period. When she got her first period at 14, she was very afraid, and her mother showed her how to wash herself with water to stay clean – something difficult to manage with little water and heavy periods. Since gaining access to proper menstrual products to help her manage her periods, she now goes to school on her period, and can help educate her three sisters and four brothers about what’s happening. With one less barrier to her education, Medina hopes to one day be a teacher.

Dignity Period project team providing instruction in the use of menstrual hygiene kits in rural Tigray region of Ethiopia. Photo: Shewaye Belay

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