Where do the donated pads go?
Many families in rural areas of the world survive on less than $1 or $2 a day. The little money they make goes to food to keep everyone alive and nourished. Any “extra” is often spent on school fees and school needs like pens and pencils. Once girls reach puberty, they are unlikely to have access to pads during their menstruation, missing up to 20% of the school days each year. They fall behind in their classes, fail grades, repeat, get frustrated and lose interest, eventually dropping out.
How can I help?
Want to sew pads or contribute in other ways?
Beginning in August 2013, Empower Women in Africa has partnered with Days for Girls International, creating a local chapter in Denver, CO. All kits of pads that we and local volunteers sew will be sent to Days for Girls, organizations they partner with or individuals who have requested pads from them. We are excited to have this partnership!
To sew pads for either Empower Women or another chapter of Days for Girls, please review the information provided on their website. Each kit contains the following:
- 2 shields: NOTE: Set your printer to FULL size printing, then measure 1 inch square on pattern to confirm that the pattern has printed 100% size (not too big nor too small). This pattern is the rough draft of a very proven pattern. Soon the polished print will be available to you but we didn’t want to wait to share this tesselating pattern.
- 8 liners
- a pair of panties (girls size 10, 12, 14 or 16. Please note that Size 16 girls is equivalent to women’s size 5)
- a washcloth
- a hotel-sized bar of soap (larger sizes add too much weight to transport logistics)
- two one-gallon sized Ziploc Freezer bags
- usage pictorial (pdf format)
- all contained in a drawstring bag to contain kit items and maintain privacy
Each kit lasts up to 3 years with proper care.
Finished pads and all material donations can be sent to:Empower Women in Africa
c/o Lori Schippers 83 Burgundy Circle PO Box 154
Silverthorne, CO 80498
If you are not a sewer, you can donate materials to complete the kits including:
- Cotton fabric
- 100% cotton flannel
- Ribbon or other materials that can be used for drawstrings
- panties (girls size 10, 12, 14 or 16. Please note that Size 16 girls is equivalent to women’s size 5)
- hotel size soap
- Gallon size Ziploc FREEZER bags
Divundu Combined School – Namibia
Divundu is a village on the verge of becoming a town in northwestern Namibia, a close neighbor to Andara where our first donation was completed. There are two secondary schools in the village and third being built and planned to be opened in January 2013. Divundu Combined School educates approximately 500 students each year from Divundu and surrounding villages. Many students come from homes where parents aren’t working and can’t afford to supply the basic necessities. Even thought there are shops in Divundu, many girls cannot afford to buy the pads they sell and depend on rags, toilet paper or newspaper during their period. The fear of stains keeps them at home and out of school for a week each month.
Kayengona Combined School – Namibia
Andara Combined School – Namibia (for a second year!)
This second year, 79 learners in Andara received complete kits. Andara was the very first school to receive pads in 2011, and several changes have been made between the two donations. The feedback from Isabel, the local teacher we work with, was “I loved the pads and the learners also. The package itself is outstanding. I gave the learners who were present this afternoon and they loved it. All they said was thanks and you should keep doing it.”
Shambyu Combined School – Namibia
Peace Corps Volunteer, Anna, writes:
It has come to my attention that a majority of the girls in my girls group don’t have access to pads or tampons and end up just using toilet tissue. On any given week there are about 30 girls who attend the club at Shambyu Combined School; however, there are many other girls who don’t attend who would also benefit.
Kayanga Combined School – Namibia
Jackie works with 75 girls in a girls club and has been working for almost a year on getting a group of women (and men!) sewing with the help of a local clinic. To jump start the project, we’re providing pads for the 75 girls she works with. Kayanga is a small village far from town and students are given few opportunities. Staying in school is their one possible path to success and we’re excited to help provide that.
Rupara Combined School and Girl’s Club – Namibia
Tracy writes… “In the village of Rupara (75k west of the town, Rundu) there is only the combined school and health center, leaving little to no activities available for the girls to participate in after school and on the weekends. The lack of activities has caused these teenage girls to engage in high risk behaviors of drinking at the shebeens (local bars) and having unprotected sex with boys and men in the community. This behavior, lack of knowledge and lack of activities has caused a drastic increase of teenage pregnancy to occur in Rupara as it is the highest in the Kavango region of Namibia. This increase encouraged me to develop a girls group at the local combined school in order to help educate these teenagers and hopefully reduce the occurrence of teenage pregnancy in Rupara. While conducting the girls group, it became evident that many of these girls knew little to nothing about their bodies, in particularly their menstrual cycle. This mostly has to do with the fact that mothers don’t talk with their children about menstruation and what to do before it happens; girls only find out about it during life science and biology while in school which doesn’t begin until grade 8 when many girls have already received their first period. Also, many girls in Rupara don’t have money for pads to use when they have their period so they tend to tear up old shirts and use the cloth from those shirts as a substitute for a pad, which often causes leaks for girls. Through this discovery it became evident that lessons on menstruation needed to be incorporated into the agenda of this girls group.”
Namibian Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) & Ante Natal Care (ANC) – Windhoek, Namibia
Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) was established in 1996 to complement Government’s efforts in the provision of Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) information and services to the people of Namibia. NAPPA has grown over the years to become the leading national provider of information, education, counseling and services on sexual and reproductive health, particularly to young people. NAPPA is a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) with over 1,000 volunteers across Namibia’s 13 Regions. The Association subscribes to current Government policy on population and reproductive health, and focuses its services to disadvantaged and underserved rural and urban groups, especially young people and women.
Olmotonyi Girls School – Tanzania
Begun in 2007 as a place of education for the neediest girls in Ngaramtoni, Tanzania many of whom have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, Olmotonyi has grown from just 67 girls and a small staff to 275 girls and a staff of more than 13. The school has 13 classrooms, a science lab with equipment for experiments and a computer lab with over 20 computers plus printers and a projector. There is also a new dormitory that will house at least 40 girls to lessen the burden of having to walk up to two hours a day for their education. So far, 66 girls have successfully graduated from Olmotonyi, setting a strong example for the girls to follow.
With the help of members of Rockland Community Church and the Sew ‘n Sew group in Evergreen, CO, we will provide all 275 girls with pads by May.
Operation Kenya Kids – Women in Kenya Sewing!
Carolyn founded Operation Kenya Kids in 2011 after she fell in love with Kenya, its people and its profound beauty in 2002 on a safari. She write about the needs of students they work with:
Majiwa Primary School has 450 students, 120 are in need of products. It sits between Nairobi and Lake Victoria on the western border of Kenya. Their housing consists of mud huts with no electricity. Their headmaster is Peter O. Many of the teachers do not draw a salary. There are approximately 5-6 staff.
ACTS Prepatory School and Center in Nairobi has approximately 400 students and 150 girls miss school each month according to headmaster Steven L. There is no electricity and the classrooms depend on day light. It would break your heart to see the slums in that area. Teachers earn about $25.00 per week, when they are paid. I believe most of them show up out of a sense of resposibility to the kids.
Olparieta Primary School has 200 primary students and according to Solomon K, there are approximately 50 girls who need sanitary products. This is a Masai school in Masai Mara, outside of Nairobi.
All together it would appear there are 320 total.
Rundu Primary Schools – Namibia
Rundu is the only bustling town in the Kavango region of Namibia. Situated on the Kavango River that is the border between Namibia and Angola, it’s a crossroads for many people and products. Though the opportunities are greater in towns than they are in villages, the needs of many kids go unmet. Menstrual products is one of those needs that is often overlooked by families struggling to survive on the outskirts of town. By reaching girls while they’re still in primary school, we give them a greater education of what changes their body will soon undergo and give them a coping method before they need one. Christina (see the next donation) works with four primary schools where the need for cloth pads is great and she is working hard to get those needs met.
Kayec Youth Development – Namibia
Christina is a Peace Corps Volunteer who reached out to us to make change for her community. In her words, read about the girls she’s working to help by bringing them reusable cloth pads and the promise of an education:
That was the answer I received last week when I asked a group of 11-13 year-old girls in Rundu how they deal with their periods. My walnut sized eyes took a moment to shrink back to size as I tried to hide my shock and carry on the conversation. I considered myself a rebel, or at least a strong feminist, in terms of menstruation. I used DivaCups before they were trendy. At 13, I thought I had most of the period related answers my friends and I were seeking. But this answer was a surprise for a girl who was raised in a tampon and pad world.
Now this Nebraskan is living in Namibia working with the KAYEC Youth Development Program. KYDP is an after school program for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). An acronym that I see translated into resiliency, perseverance, and spunk on a daily basis. The KYD program began as a response to the needs of Namibia Youth. In its third year in Rundu, KYD is centered around academic and emotional support for in-school youth. KYD Rundu currently has nearly 170 students enrolled. More than 90 of these participants are female. The young women of KYD, age 11-18, will be receiving PADS at the start of the 2012 school year from EWA.
As a health Peace Corps Volunteer I often feel more like a teacher in my placement than a health care worker. I’m excited for this project to bridge that gap; but more so, I’m excited for the young women I work with to get support as they become more empowered to take charge over their own bodies and heath.
Field of Dreams Orphanage – Uganda
Show Mercy International is helping to start their SECOND orphanage in Uganda. They ”provide a home, food, education, clothing and medical care to orphaned and abandoned children living primarily in Uganda.”
Field of Dreams just outside Kampala, the capital of Uganda, will include homes for the children and caregivers, fresh water, a soccer field and vocational training facilities for children and adults including learning farming techniques while they are growing their own food on the property.
The staff at Show Mercy would like to be able to provide reusable cloth menstrual pads for 200 girls living at their facility. Disposable pads, a monthly expense, are a cost that the girls cannot afford. By giving them a single donation of reusable cloth menstrual pads, the girls will be able to attend school while they are menstruating and become empowered to change their lives as they grow.
Karasburg – Namibia
All because they didn’t have access to pads during their period.
Our current partner is a Peace Corps Volunteer, Kristen Bunner, who is hoping to raise enough money for 250 girls! Here’s what she has to say about her community…
Kristen Bunner is a Peace Corps Volunteer in the HIV/AIDS sector in the southern African country of Namibia. The community she lives and works in is a semi-rural southern Namibian town named Karasburg of approximately 4,000 with a staggering HIV prevalence rate of 11.7%. She is placed at a faith-based organization called Catholic AIDS Action where she has developed an after-school program for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). 1 in 5 Namibians is HIV-infected, many children have lost one or both their parents to HIV/AIDS, and these are the children she has taken under her wing.
For their OVCs, Catholic AIDS Action provides assistance in the form of school fees, uniforms and shoes, but not thorough necessary toiletry items. To address this need, Kristen’s goal is to distribute pads to all of the female OVCs through her organization. She is based out of their regional office in Karasburg, but they also serve clients in 12 other outlying communities, and so Kristen would also like these girls to receive pads. She estimates that there are at least 250 OVCs that they serve that would be females of the menstruating age.
Kristen’s goal is to raise enough money to give each girl one pad, though of course, she can distribute more than one to each girl if she passes her fundraising goal. Each pad costs 6 USD, so she is aiming to raise at least 1,500 USD.
Please consider donating to the female orphans and vulnerable children of Karasburg, Namibia through LunaPads. Tick the box for $10 cash donation, enter “Empower Women in Africa” when asked for the distribution group and enter the number of times you’d like to donate $10 (enter 4 to donate $40). These girls are especially in need and we have an opportunity to make a major impact in their lives by ensuring they are equipped to stay in school past puberty.
Southern Girls Conference – Namibia
SGC’s mission is to empower girls to make healthy decisions about their physical and mental health, and to become Namibia’s future leaders. From 16-19 June 2011, 75 girls from the southern regions of Namibia will come together, get to know learners from different regions with different languages and lifestyles, share their own ideas of leadership, and learn from each other and from the facilitators who will be trained by Peace Corps Volunteers to empower the girls to grow in the few days they have together.
This year, a new element will be added. Each participant will receive 3 reusable cloth pads, giving them the ability to stay in school past puberty and gain more skills to become agents of change in their communities in adulthood.
By Provision’s Disciplining African Teens Hostel – Namibia
In Tsumeb, Namibia, ten high school girls live in a school hostel organized by By Provision. The ten girls living there in 2011 are in grades 8 through 12. They have one hostel “mother” who is always on duty to act as their parent.
Each of the ten girls wrote a letter to Empower Women in Africa telling us what their life has been like growing up in Namibia and asking for our help. One girl wrote, “I have no where to stay because my parents cannot afford to rent for us a house.”
Another told us, “My father has 13 kids and only 5 of them did finish school and the rest we are still in school. Furthermore, my results are somehow weak. Last year I achieved 13 points because sometime I use to get difficult in studying and I use to fall asleep. Also I used to be in need of exam booklets.”
A third girl wrote, “I later learned after a couple of months that my mother was sick with the HIV virus. It was very difficult for my mother to take care of me while she is always falling sick shortly. It was affecting me seeing my mother in such a condition. It started affecting me so bad that was lacking concentration at school. My mother could later not pay for my school fees anymore as the income was very low.”
The challenges these girls face on a daily basis vary dramatically, as illustrated by still a fourth girl, “My father passed away when I was four years old and early August 2001 my mother died. After the death of my mother I came here in Tsumeb to live with my aunt and to continue with my school, but things did not go as I expected. I stayed for one year without going to school due to the fact that there was no money for school fees. My aunty was nice at first and could do anything for me; she even paid my school fees. Things started when I was in grade five, she changed a lot, she became rude and always insulting me.”
It is clear that these girls are unable to find money to buy disposable pads each month and struggle to stay in school during their menstruation. To combat this obstacle to earning an education and the only possibility of raising themselves and their families out of poverty, we have donated 3 pads for each girl and 3 more for the hostel mother – a total of 33 pads made and sent by Empower Women in Africa.
Andara Combined School – Namibia
A 15 year old learner called me over to her desk during 4th period math class.
“Madam, my skirt is not OK.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“My menstruation,” and she stood up discretely to show me the stain on her skirt. I left the classroom to ask other teachers about the appropriate protocol for this situation arising in the middle of the school day. I was told, “She has to go home.” And home she went, with her skirt turned around backwards and books in front of the stain hiding it.
I didn’t see her for a week.
Girls regularly miss school in the developing world because they don’t have access to sanitary options during their period. The family’s money is used for survival. Food is bought and there is nothing left for a girl to buy pads to be able to attend school during her period.
I asked around, “What do you use during your menstruation?” Nothing. A cloth. Toilet paper. A towel. Nothing.
I did some research and found GladRags in Portland. They hosted me on their website and I started sending emails to everyone I knew. They forwarded those emails to everyone they knew. And they kept getting sent. I hoped to raise 250 reusable cloth menstrual pads through donations over the course of 2 months.
It took 2 days.
I doubled my goal to 500 pads. I met that 3 days later. I was raising 100 pads a day to give to the girls who had become my family.
In the end, after two months were up, I had raised 1368 reusable cloth menstrual pads, donated by my family, my friends, friends of my family and friends, and come by complete strangers.
The first 600 of those pads were donated on Valentine’s Day 2011 to 200 girls at Andara Combined School. More will go to Omuthitu Combined school and the rest to Omaruru Adolescent Clinic.
I was inspired by the love so many people showed the girls in Namibia. I was moved to take even bigger action.
Empower Women in Africa, Inc. was created. A donation is a great gift, but it reaches only a small population in need. By working with local women to create a small business making and selling reusable cloth menstrual pads, women will be earning an income and girls and women will be able to buy a product locally that is not yet available, creating change for the sellers and the buyers.
What do the girls at Andara think of these pads after using them?
We sent several questions to the girls at Andara to hear what they think of their new reusable menstrual pads. Here are some of their responses:
When you have to change a pad at school, what do you do?
When I change my pad at school, I used to put the one with blood in the plastic bag and put it in my school bag. After school then I do the wash. I also put on the clean one. – Richildis Ntoma (18 years old)
How do you wash and dry them?
I used to wash with soap and clean water, and put outside so that it can dry. – Hairwa Ingrid Pakela (18 years old)
What would you use if you didn’t have these pads?
Toilet paper, cotton, mattress, leaf of banana. – Kapira Godwina (grade 9)
Do you prefer the reusable pads or the disposable pads from the shop? Which is more comfortable?
The reusable pads. – Thikoka Kunyima (16 years old)
Are you happy with having these reusable pads?
Yes we are. – Siyanga Zitha (grade 9)