Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa

by Femme International
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa
Menstrual Health for 5000 Girls in East Africa

   GlobalGiving Quarterly Report

Introduction 

Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is very important to all people within the community, knowing how important the goals are  Femme International has been working hard towards decreasing the problems that are hindering girls and women in menstrual health management. Given the challenges of Covid 19, Femme International has extended her activities to boys, men and parents, to cover the gap seen during covid 19 due to lack of enough information about menstrual health.  As it was found in Subsaharan Africa parents, relatives and teachers are the main source of information for adolescents. However, the relatives and parents are not well informed and some of them are uncomfortable discussing puberty, reproduction and menstruation.  Following our experience in working with other regions in Tanzania, Femme has expanded her activities to a new location around the lake zone in Mwanza region, the program involves boys and girls, as the findings show there's a need for education on menstrual management and sexual health & reproductive rights. Not only that but also the menstruation and sexual health reproductive health right training program extended to teen mum as we focused to help mum and future generations that will be raised by those mums. Training has been conducted to students and the normal style of collecting data from students in school through questionnaires has been used in six months check-in. 



TWAWEZA MENSTRUAL HEALTH WORKSHOPS 

This quarter we focused on providing education to all students (boys and girls) and adults. In the Twaweza program in the Kilimanjaro region, about 60 (35F, 25M) students were taught about sexual reproductive health and menstruation, while in Mwanza about 215 (8OM, 135F) students were taught SRHR and menstruation. The training conducted in Mwanza gave Femme another eye on how to solve menstrual problems as many of the students’ boys and girls have little knowledge in SHRH and menstruation, hence more investment of time and money is needed to help the students in SRHR and menstruation issues. 

Not only that, but also in  Kenya, in this quarter Femme focused mostly on teenage mums who wish to go back to school and others to join courses like tailoring and hairdressing. We reached a total of 100 teenage mums to get access to education on menstruation and sexual reproductive health and mostly how their bodies work in terms of the menstrual cycle, safe days, and contraceptives. The important discussion that came from these workshops was for the teenage mums to love themselves, their bodies, and the children that they are now raising. We believe that the education and menstrual products provided to them will better their future and the future of their children, hence realizing the dream of reducing period poverty. 

Together with Kariobangi Social Justice Centre, we also created awareness on children’s rights and the role of the community and parents in giving the right information on menstruation and sexual reproductive health to both girls and boys, Our main goal in the event was to bridge the gap that still exists when it comes to Freedom and safety when talking about menstruation and sexual reproductive health education. We reached a total of 30 girls who all received washable pads, We believe that with the discussion we had, we help reduce teenage pregnancy as these girls now have the right information on menstruation and sexual reproductive health, where to seek help or treatment when needed and talk freely to their parents or guardians on the topic.

As we are still going through the Pandemic Phase, In Kenya, Femme International decided to collect data on individual beneficiaries that have gone through menstrual health workshops, the data is collected through M&E online form that the beneficiaries fill. This is to maintain a social distance but still keep in touch with the beneficiaries and gather information on how they have benefited from the implementation of the previous workshop, if there is a need to update our curriculum or to find out, if there is a need to provide more information, the collection of data is still in the process.

School Clubs

Adolescence is a time of many new things including puberty changes and the onset of menstruation for girls, which are all important subjects pupils and teachers/parents need to have a clear understanding of. Puberty comes with many changes especially to girls which if there is no adequate and right information in regards to the subject; leads to challenges such as early pregnancy and an increase of school dropouts. The School club session has become an open session for young women and boys to express their thoughts and have an opportunity to open up to some of the questions or conversations they might have been struggling to have with their peers or at home with caregivers. 

Talking about menstruation and SRHR helps to empower knowledge, gives guidelines and alleviates the anxiety for most young women and their caregivers/guardians. Femme International believes that every young woman should not feel ashamed to talk about their periods openly and have the right to have the knowledge and choice on what type of quality and sustainable products they should use whether i.e washable pads or menstrual cups. Managing menstruation in a hygienic manner is also an important point to emphasize. Through this program 615 (228M 387F)  beneficiaries (boys and girls) were reached in 8 schools (5primary 3secondary) in Kilimanjaro region. Again, thank you for your continued support helps us to grow during this difficult time of the pandemic, as we inspire to even reach a wide audience. 

 

Highlights of the project 

  • Attending digital safety training for women influencers and advocates helps us to think and come up with ideas on how we can influence the audience or become advocates of menstruation and sexual reproductive health through      digital devices without becoming victims of cyberbullying
  • Hoping to reach a wide audience both locally and internationally, we have started doing  short videos on menstruations that will be posted on our social media every month talking about different topics on menstruation and sexual reproductive health.
  • We have continued facilitating our workshops in schools, women community groups in both Tanzania and Kenya, with a hope of slowly extending the MHM conversation to  men audience and young boys to know the importance of menstrual health management and why period matters.
  • Hosting a workshop on MHM in collaboration with Songambele initiative has clearly made us realize as part of the Tanzania MHM Coalition women and girls with disabilities are often left behind on receiving such knowledge in regards to menstruation and sexual reproductive health.
  • All persons with disabilities have the right to be treated equally and to be included in the conversations. Women and girls with disabilities are currently under-represented in MHM programming and the interventions; therefore they have to be they have to be included in every stage of the intervention 
  • Keeping in collaboration with other stakeholders in advocacy and awareness on period poverty and false traditions/beliefs that surrounds menstruation.

 

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This month, we have welcomed Florence Akara to our team as Regional Director for East Africa! Florence will be based in our Moshi office, and will bring new leadership and energy to the organization!

With a background in corporate law in Nairobi, Flo has a passion for girls empowerment and experience working with a variety of non-profit organizations in Tanzania and Kenya. She is passionate about using education and policy to ensure that girls never have to miss out an opportunity because of their cycle.

What are you the most excited about with Femme?

I am most excited about Femme’s ability to achieve up to 6 sustainable development goals by just tackling menstrual health issues in East Africa. The reusable pads and menstrual cups coupled with the curriculum training that Femme offers women and girls help tackle sustainability goals for education, health, gender equality, WASH, economic empowerment, responsible consumption and production. This is especially exciting because, through Femme, I will achieve my personal goals of becoming a sustainable development champion by 2030.

Fast forward five years, where do you see Femme?

I see Femme International having access to girls all over the world. Leading the pack when it comes to discussing women’s matters and teaching girls how to be comfortable in their own bodies so that they can focus their energies on becoming people of substance. In addition, Femme will lead women and girls everywhere to actively participate in sustainability as they take it upon themselves to protect their environment by being mindful of the products they use and put out because they’ve been taught better.

Read more about Florence here!

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woman in Twaweza Workshop
woman in Twaweza Workshop

The Twaweza Program combines education, conversation, and distribution to reduce menstrual stigma and empower girls to stay healthy and in school, thereby improving their quality of life. Providing reusable menstrual products has been shown to improve girls’ ability to concentrate and participate in school as well as reducing the risk of RTIs. 

The interactive workshops are delivered over a four-day period for one to two hours each day. On the fourth day, participants receive a Femme Kit, which is designed to contain everything required to safely manage their periods. This includes soap, a towel, a bowl, and a reusable menstrual product. Participants are given the choice of which is best for them: a menstrual cup (Ruby Cup), or reusable pads (AFRIpads).

After six weeks, facilitators return for a check-in, the purpose of which is two-fold. Firstly, it is an opportunity to reinforce key concepts, as letting go of long-held beliefs is difficult. Secondly, it serves as continued support for MC users, and increases uptake through encouragement and identifying successful peer users who can act as leaders to support the group.

Improved menstrual/reproductive health means girls are suffering fewer adverse effects of poor MHM practices and recurrent health issues, which will primarily be measured by the indicator AHIs (see Table 1, section 5). Although no causal studies have been conducted, there is mounting evidence that demonstrates a link between poor MHM and increased risk or odds of RTIs, UTIs, and even STIs. Undiagnosed or improperly treated RTIs and STIs in women result in issues with fertility, dangerous pregnancies and increased child or maternal mortality, and chronic pelvic pain.

With less stigma around menstruation in the community, menstruators have more freedom to participate in everyday activities, are less restricted, and engage in healthier MHM practices. Myths and misconceptions often prevent menstruators from cooking, farming, gardening, or working in food-related areas. They prevent menstruators from hanging their menstrual product in the sun to dry, and from storing it safely, both of which decrease AHIs. They prevent women from partaking in income-generating activities, which affects their financial independence and agency. And they teach menstruators that their body is dirty, shameful, and contaminated, which has significant, unresearched long-term effects on their self-confidence, self-image, and self-worth.

When girls are better able to attend school, stay in school all day, concentrate and participate in class, and have higher confidence and less shame, they are more likely to remain in school, and perform better on national exams. This means they are more likely to enrol in post-secondary education, which increases their income and financial independence. Further education dramatically improves a woman’s agency and choice throughout her life, as they have better health, use family planning and practice safe sex, have fewer children who are healthier and have higher education. Prioritising girls’ education over subsequent generations will significantly decrease gender inequalities in schooling and job/hiring sectors, which will in turn further promote environments that are conducive to girls’ education. Women with higher levels of education contribute significantly to their community’s development and their country’s GDP.

71.8% of beneficiaries reported comfortably sitting at their desks during menstruation, as opposed to being uncomfortable, distracted, standing at the back, or being absent. The majority of girls were not comfortable being called on by their teacher or raising their hands when they knew the answer. However, there is no significant change from Needs Assessments, and conversations during data collection suggested this is a broader cultural issue related to gender expectations and classroom environment. In running the program at schools, especially once boys are included, an environment that is friendlier and more conducive and supportive of girls’ learning and comfort will be fostered, and lead to increased participation in this regard from girls.

65.4% of girls attributed a self-reported increased in school performance to the Twaweza Program, showing a positive correlation with both attendance and increased concentration. Further verification will be obtained from enrolment, graduation rates, and national exam performance pre- and post-intervention.

71.8% of girls reported sometimes or always being able to take part in all activities during their periods; only 1.9% reported always missing out, a decrease of 12.5% from before the Twaweza Program. Figure 5 below shows the most common reasons girls were missing out on activities. As with missing/leaving school, the primary reason was pain. The graph shows that the percentage of girls who ‘don’t miss’ any aspects of their lives during menstruation increased significantly from prior to the intervention.

78.7% of girls self-reported 0-1 AHIs, an increase of 17.1% as compared to before Femme conducted the Twaweza program . Additionally, beneficiaries were 1.5 times less likely to report 2+ AHIs, a statistically significant outcome. 84.0% of girls reported being somewhat or much more confident as a result of the program, whilst 89.1% reported feeling somewhat less or much less shame, also as a result of the program

One-Year M&E was undertaken with 44 students at Ghona Secondary School, in October 2017. Form 4 students from 2016 had either graduated or dropped out, and were not included in the M&E.

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Femme staff and newly trained local elders
Femme staff and newly trained local elders

Since Femme International joined GlobalGiving, our team has been working hard to make our goal a reality. 

Our team traveled to Tanga, on Tanzania's coast, to deliver the Twaweza Program to our partners YDCP, who offer a wide range of services to youth with disabilities, including health services, education, and caretaking. Our goal for this project was to ensure that girls with disabilities recieved the important information, as well as reusable menstrual products. However, Femme also wanted to target caregivers and local leaders to ensure the girls would be supported at all levels in the community.

In Tanzania, as with many places, girls with disabilities face many challenges, including physical and sexual abuseand neglect from their families, who often see them as an embarassement. YDCP works with the community to change these perceptions, and Femme collaborates with YDCP to provide menstrual products and health education, as this is a major challenge for these girls, and their caregivers. 

Femme hosted a workshop specifically for the caregivers, which helped them understand how to best support the girls, and then ran a workshop for the girls themselves. Our team designed spcial workbooks for this workshop, with loads of images for them to colour and interact with. The girls were provided with Femme Kits, which include reusable pads from AFRIpads, which will help them feel clean and comfortable during their periods.

In the Tanga region, many girls learn about reproductive health from local 'kungwis', which are female elders who teach girls about their bodies. However, much of these sessions often turn into discussion various sexual acts, and how to be a good wife to her husband. Femme believes that a girl's worth is much more than her ability to please a man, and that girls need to learn comprehensive health education. Because this is an exisiting community structure, Femme hosted a Training of Trainers with the kungwis to teach best practice teaching methods, as well as the Twaweza curriculum content. We hope that this will help the kungwis be more effective teachers in their community. 

Girls with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to menstrual health, and we are excited to be developing necessary tools to provide much needed support to girls with disabilitis, while also including the wider community. 

We are excited to keep collaborating with groups like YDCP in 2018!

Girls receiving their Femme Kits
Girls receiving their Femme Kits
The Twaweza Workbook teaches female anatomy
The Twaweza Workbook teaches female anatomy
Girls and Winnie after the workshop
Girls and Winnie after the workshop
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Organization Information

Femme International

Location: Oxford Mills, ON - Canada
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FemmeInt
Project Leader:
Sabrina Rubli
Oxford Mills, ON Canada

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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