Even now, there are still young women who will get their first period today and have no idea what’s happening to their bodies when they do, let alone have access to period products. And that’s really no longer acceptable, in fact it gets us all riled up. ohne was born out of a passion for women’s health, all women – because, after all, we’re in this together. So we’re channeling our anger positively, towards making a change.
Revolutionising period management in low-income areas is not just about the availability of menstrual health products (unfortunately) – so we’ll never merely distribute disposable products. It’s about a whole lot more – affordability, a lack of sufficient information, ongoing social and hygiene taboos, a shortage of clean water and adequate sanitation, as well as waste disposal facilities.
No doubt you already know that the ohne team are big on shakin’ up change, but fundamentally it’s about making a long-term and sustainable difference, and we believe in supporting a grassroots social enterprise that recognises the need to work in partnership with local communities. The School Club Zambia uses a unique three-tiered approach to support girls to reach their full potential so that they can succeed in their communities and beyond.
So here’s how it works…
SCZ puts girls’ voices at the centre of change, which not only makes it a more effective programme, but one that champions confidence and self-worth, and we think that’s something to be proud of. Their unique programme is the direct result of having asked girls about the biggest challenges they faced, and really listening to which aspects of menstrual health most affected their lives:
1 – Improved hygiene
Girls’ lack of access to a clean, safe toilet, especially during menstruation, perpetuates feelings of risk, shame and fear. When a girl reaches puberty, access to a safe and private toilet can make a real difference to how she experiences her monthly period. Girls need clean water to wash themselves or their menstrual cloths, and the availability of these facilities in schools will make a big difference to whether or not girls come to school during their period. UNESCO estimates that girls’ absenteeism from school each month due to their menstrual cycle is one of the biggest contributors to girls dropping out of school altogether. Not only does this have long-term impacts on women’s education, health, livelihoods and safety, but it also affects the economy as ignoring the sanitation needs of women risks excluding them from the workforce. That’s why SCZ prioritises the construction of new toilet blocks at every school involved in the programme, that not only have separate boys and girls areas, but also have a changing block and waste disposal facilities.
2 – Making reusable pads
Managing menstruation with safety and dignity is a human right, embedded within the right to human dignity, the right to equality, bodily integrity, health and well-being. SCZ conducts workshops that teach girls how to make eco-friendly, reusable sanitary pads out of locally available materials, which means girls can manage their period every month in a sustainable way which doesn’t depend on the ability of their family to purchase disposable period products.
3 – Innovative menstrual health education
Breaking the taboo that surrounds menstruation remains the biggest challenge. Breaking it starts with the right to information and knowledge, and the ability of girls to openly talk about periods without fear or shame, but instead with confidence and pride. That’s why SCZ makes sure that innovative menstrual health education is included in the program, providing the girls with sexual health and hygiene education that is not typically addressed by the Zambian curriculum.
“One of the best things about School Club is the way that it works directly with all of the stakeholders involved in their projects. This approach meant that when I was in Zambia working with School Club I developed strong relationships with the teachers and students at the schools, and I was able to really see how these projects were making change. Girls’ voices are being put at the centre of the menstrual hygiene programmes, which is so important because it means School Club can really target the key issues they are facing. I’m so excited about this collaboration, and I can’t wait to see how OHNE can help expand the reach of the programmes so that more girls in rural Zambia are given the tools to manage their periods with dignity. Because every girl deserves that right.” – Nikki, OHNE Co-Founder
We see empowerment as more than an end goal. For every month you subscribe to OHNE, we donate 1% of revenue to the Girls Programme run by the School Club Zambia, and regular donations mean a greater and more effective contribution – together we’ll make a significant, sustainable change which will ultimately enable marginalised girls and young women on the programme a better command of their own potential. And it’s about damn time. So thank you for joining us – we think you’re bloody awesome.
Image credit: School Club Zambia