In developing countries, millions of girls are unable to afford sanitary pads. Some girls often resort to using old cloth, mattress padding and other materials that promote infection and leakage. To avoid any stress or embarrassment girls will often skip school – up to 5 days of school each month during their menstrual cycle. Many eventually drop out, compromising their education and ultimately their future.
Lack of education almost always leads to a lifetime of social and economic vulnerability. Unfortunately some uneducated girls turn to prostitution or early marriage, putting them at greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases (particularly in Swaziland which has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world).
One way to help girls in developing countries stay in school is to help them manage their menstruation. Extensive research is showing that if we can keep a girl in school:
• She will marry at a later age thereby decreasing medical complications that can otherwise occur in very young pregnant girls.
• She will have a smaller and healthier family.
• Infant and child health increases amongst schooled women.
• She will be three times less likely to become HIV-positive.
• Women invest 90% of their income back into their families (compared to only 30-40% for men). This not only transforms their home, but their community as well.
Operation Sister Act is a cost effective one day program that addresses some of the stigmas and myths surrounding periods and the importance of keeping themselves clean. At the end of the program each girl is given a ‘Freedom Kit’.
Each Freedom Kit contains:
• 4 underwear
• 8 re-usable sanitary pads
• Information on HIV/AIDS prevention
(in both English and in their native language).
• Storage Bag
Each pad is washable and if looked after properly can last up to 18 months. This alone provides monetary, environmental and health benefits.
Through Operation Sister Act we hope to:
• Provide effective and healthy sanitation
• Keep girls in school
• Educate girls on HIV/AIDS prevention
• Encourage local and sustainable job development.
The program was piloted in Sri Lanka and Swaziland. We have received positive feedback from both countries and are now rolling out this program with our in country partners to help reach as many poor and vulnerable young women as possible.
For AU$20 you can purchase a Freedom Kit and help a young girl stay in school and claim back some independence. If you would like to help, you can make an online donation by clicking here.
If you would like more information about the Sister Act program please contact us.
Operation Hope would like to thank Huru International for their inspiration and encouragement in replicating their model.