May 6, 2021

More Girls Trained in Menstrual Health

Nkumbu learns about menstrual cups
Nkumbu learns about menstrual cups

The African Education Program (AEP) excitedly welcomed 137 girls into the 2021 Nyali Scholarship Program this Spring as we focus on girls' empowerment through education.

Education is not free after the 8th grade in Zambia and mandatory school fees keep many young people, especially girls, from realizing their full potential through access to education. Unlike most organizations that focus on a singular solution like scholarships, AEP takes a holistic approach to providing resources and opportunities so youth members can overcome any challenge they face to reach their full potential as critically thinking, innovative leaders. 

AEP considers the unique challenges that each child faces over the years. Children and youth come to the center several times a week over the course of many years, providing countless touchpoints to address the challenges holding a child back. AEP’s model is not a quick fix, it is a decade long investment. Once fully immersed, if a child wants to pull themselves out of poverty, they can take advantage of the resources provided maximizing their chances of success. This model creates opportunities for youth to discover their own unique gifts and talents and helps them break their cycle of poverty while becoming inspired leaders eager to create change.

This is why we celebrate even the small success stories like training our new scholarship recipients in menstrual health. Period poverty often keeps girls and young women from attending school during their menstrual cycle due to lack of supplies and stigma. AEP works hard to partner with organizations that help us bring sustainable products to our community. Out of 26 girls in our April training, only one girl had seen or heard of a menstrual cup. The fact that a menstrual cup can be used for up to 10 years is very exciting to a young girl who worries about finding the funds to purchase menstrual products each month.

Nkumu is a 10th grade student who shared, "I was scared at first because I had never used the cup before. I followed all the instructions given to us by the staff at AEP. I found the cup more comfortable than pads though I did not expect this. I now prefer using the cup because it's comfortable. And, I do not have to worry about leaks anymore."

So thank you for helping our girls and overcome period poverty in Zambia! It is through your gifts and generous donations that we get to see smiles as bright as Nkumu's!


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Mar 24, 2021

AEP Continues to Raise Funds for Nyali Scholarship

AEP Scholarship Graduate from University of Zambia
AEP Scholarship Graduate from University of Zambia

In Nyanja, one of Zambia’s many local languages, “nyali” means light. AEP’s scholarships have represented light during times of darkness for so many young people who otherwise would not have been able to continue their education.

Over 2,600 individual annual scholarships have been awarded since 2007, enabling 450 young women and men to complete high school and 80 to graduate from college. This year, more than ever, AEP’s scholarships represent a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated young Zambians’ access to quality education. Access to school and proficiency levels were already poor and now school drop-out and teenage pregnancy rates are on the rise.

AEP’s approach combines scholarships to public school and after-school programs focused on self-esteem, leadership, and innovation development.

COVID-19 forced us to pivot this work.

AEP’s opportunities open doors for girls and boys to discover their own unique gifts and talents enabling them to take this first step out of poverty.

Read Munambeza’s story to dive deeper into why AEP’s approach creates a lasting impact.

Many of AEP’s young people experience hardships like Munambeza -- she lost her father in 2008 when she was in 7th grade and her mother worked hard to support her, along with three other siblings, by selling dry fish at the local market. Life was difficult for her family and Zambia’s mandatory school fees starting in 8th grade were just too much for her mother to afford. Fortunately, an uncle stepped in to help for a couple of years until he lost his job. In 2011, a friend introduced Munambeza to the African Education Program’s educational resource center and she began attending on a regular basis. Her smile lights up the center every time she walks in. She received her first scholarship in 2012 when she entered the 10th grade.

Munambeza had dreams to attend the University of Zambia. After high school, she was awarded a college scholarship, turning this dream into a reality. “This scholarship really meant a lot to me because I knew there were many young people out there who were in dying need of it, so I was not going to let this opportunity go to waste.”

Munambeza graduated at the end of 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Public Administration. Life after university has not been easy in the wake of COVID-19, but she still has hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  She is currently interning with Global Platform Zambia to gain experience and different skills for her career. She chose this degree because it encompasses a broad field of administration and policy making and one day she hopes to become a policy analyst so that she can contribute positively to the development of her community and the country at large.

“AEP has contributed greatly to the person I am today. Giving back to the communities and institutions that helped us to achieve success is a value we share and a privilege we embrace. One does not need to wait to make so much money to start giving back to the community. For me, giving back to where I grew up from means a lot, these children need it because I was once one of those children. I believe I have to lead by example because leadership does not have to do with position, but with action.”  — Munambeza, University of Zambia Graduate

We invite you to learn more about the Nyali Scholarship Fund by visiting this page.

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Jan 11, 2021

No Mess, No Stress and Lots of Smiles in Kafue!

The smile was evident on the girls faces as they received the amazing news about the menstrual packages that they were going to receive. One girl screamed at the top of her voice, “Yes!!” This was a big deal for them, a saviour of period misery, not from menstrual pain or menstruation itself, but the misery of not having menstrual products to help them manage their periods. Periods are not a disease -- they are something that most girls go through until they reach menopause. But without the proper “tools” a period sure feels like a disease, a terrible one if you ask them!

“The thought of me not going to use a piece of cloth for my periods anymore is overwhelming, my prayer is that many more girls get to be blessed like me today.” — Jessie, high school graduate and AEP beneficiary

Many girls in Zambia, like in many African countries and beyond, still face segregation and discrimination when it comes to menstruation. They are still considered to be unclean and it is a taboo to even talk about your period. Girls are taught early on to use household items like cloths and rags when their period arrives. Few families manage to buy sanitary pads for their daughters, with the economic crisis that the country is experiencing, menstruation products are a luxury that cannot be afforded.

Since 2007, the African Education Program (AEP) has awarded over 2,600 individual annual scholarships, enabling 450 young women and men to complete high school and 80 to graduate from college. Scholarships enable girls and boys to continue their education in schools and, most importantly, create a base for the programs provided at AEP’s pilot educational resource center, the Amos Youth Centre (AYC), in Kafue, Zambia. On a daily basis, before the pandemic hit in March 2020, over 400 children and youth would take advantage of programs focused on quality education through academic tutoring, leadership development and volunteerism, HIV/AIDS and health awareness, nutrition and food security, the arts and creativity, and gender equity. AEP’s model is based on creating opportunities so that these children and youth can build their resiliency and overcome any challenges that may prevent them from reaching their full potential. This creates an environment for these youth to break out of their impoverished situation and become the leaders that their communities need to systemically end poverty.

Clubs at the center include One Up for Girl Power where our girls and young women come together to talk freely about health topics like menstruation. In 2019, AEP created the Reuse, Rise, Rejoice reusable pad campaign that benefitted 100 girls at AYC. They received training on menstrual health and a pack of reusable pads. They even learned how to make them the pads too.That was the beginning of our fight to end period poverty for our girls.

This year, when the pandemic hit, the schools in our community closed and our youth center closed, too. We soon learned that COVID-19 was not just making period poverty worse worldwide, but for our girls as well. When we conducted a survey to find out what the girls in our program were using while menstruating, 30% reported using rags or traditional methods during their period. 72% said they would like to try a menstrual cup or find out more information. Thanks to generous donations through the GlobalGiving campaign and AEP's COVID-19 Emergency Relief Family Fund, enough money was raised to distribute a pack of five reusable pads and a menstrual cup to 200 of our young women and girls.

The menstrual health trainings and distribution began in late November. Due to the pandemic we limited the trainings to only a few girls at a time and kept everyone socially distanced. Lumuno Chongo, AYC’s Programs Director, provided the training on how to use and clean the menstrual cups since the girls have never used a cup before. Girls from 8th grade to university who are beneficiaries of AEP participated. Even the girls in our special education program, Read for Rose, were not left out and they, too, received menstrual products and took part in the training.

Many parents provided positive feedback on how grateful they were about the “presents” to their girls, a perfect gift in time for the holidays!

“This menstrual package has me covered for the next 8 years of my life, no stress about buying pads anymore!  — Angela, university student and AEP beneficiary

It is exciting to know that our girls will be empowered through access to reusable sanitary products that liberate them from their period poverty while also being trained on important menstrual information for their health and well-being. Your donation helped make this happen! From all of us here at the African Education Program, and on behalf of our girls and young women in Kafue, thank you for your gifts and generosity!

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