“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman” A Mexican proverb.
In a lot of cultures it’s recognized that women play an important role in society. The more education that women and girls receive, the higher the economic growth for the community (IMF[i], World Bank[ii], UNESCO[iii]). It is also known that 1 in 10 African girls miss school monthly in part because they lack menstrual hygiene supplies. So it’s of upmost importance for girls to have access to menstrual hygiene supplies and to receive education. The Zambian government has committed to providing free menstrual hygiene supplies to school aged girls in the 2017 budget.
We applaud the government’s efforts to keep girls in school; we also think it is more sustainable to teach women and girls to make their own sanitary pads than to be dependent on the government for supplies. A recommendation for the available funds would be to collaborate with other organizations to provide pad making training for teachers and community leaders who would teach girls about menstrual hygiene. Knowledge is power. Once these girls are adults, they can continue to make their own pads or teach their family to do so.
The rest of the funding can be spent on paying parents of these girls the price of a pack of pads if the girls have a 90% or more attendance per month. This would be to incentivize parents especially in rural and Peri-urban areas who have a stronger preference to educating boys. This would potentially increase the value of a girl child.
Alternatively, the money could go towards community training centers that train girl on life skills: saving money, budgeting, health, money for gardening starter kits…etc. When a girl is generating income, her parents may also be unlikely to marry her off early.
As an organization centered on empowering women and girls, we are very strong on teaching them to do for themselves with the right tools. Again, we applaud the government for taking this bold step, and implore them to utilize our recommendations