In 2015, Help Lesotho launched a new initiative to distribute reusable sanitary kits to school-age girls in Lesotho.
As in many countries around the world, menstruation is a barrier to education; many girls stay home from school because they cannot afford the necessary supplies to manage their periods. Some girls turn to dirty rags or towels, leaving them uncomfortable, embarrassed, and at risk for infection.
The first few dozen reusable kits for this project were purchased from the Ottawa, Canada chapter of ‘Days for Girls’, an impressive program that has sewn thousands of kits for girls around the world. These kits were distributed to 50 girls in the pilot phase of the project. After using the washable pads for six months, the project was yielding impressive results – 100% of the girls who received kits were using the kits – and loving them! Instead of staying home the girls were bringing their kits to school on the days they were menstruating. They were having no trouble cleaning the pads, and they were finally feeling proud of the young women they are.
After the success of the pilot, Help Lesotho looked to expand the impact of the program.
Taking Sanitary Kits Local
That opportunity came with the establishment of a partnership between Help Lesotho and the Mazzarello Vocational School in Maputsoe (about 40 minutes away from Help Lesotho’s main Leadership Centre in Lesotho).
A group of young women are learning to sew at the Mazzarello Vocational School, and they are now the main producer of the reusable sanitary kits distributed by Help Lesotho. Help Lesotho pays for each kit made by the girls at the school, and the profits are helping to cover the school fees and expenses of the seamstresses. In combination with their project to sew school uniforms, the school is working towards being 100% self-sufficient.
Quotes from the girls sewing the kits:
“They are going to help a lot of people, especially a lot of the people living up in the mountains. It’s not easy for them to get the pads, but if they have those pads it’s going to be easy for them to use and wash.”
“We’re so glad to hear that you are very happy with our work.”
“So excited because we didn’t realize that once we were able to make those things, before that we thought they all had to be imported, so we are very happy to make these for our own. We are happy that we are improving our work.”
“We are always happy when we are doing our work, because if you do it with long faces, it won’t be perfect, so we are putting in all of our effort.”
The girls at the Mazzarello Vocational School were thrilled to take on a project that would both provide them with a small income and give them the chance to help girls in their community through their sewing. Help Lesotho is pleased to be supporting the local economy and skill development of girls who are working hard to build careers on which they can support their families.
Knowledge is Power
Girls who receive the kits participate in a comprehensive education session where they learn about menstruation – namely that it is a totally normal thing! – and learn how to stay healthy and hygienic as they enter womanhood. The girls are given the opportunity to ask questions; with many of these girls growing up orphaned and alone, they have never had anyone to ask even the most basic questions of.
The girls love receiving the beautiful kits, which include:
- two shields (which have a water-proof barrier);
- eight pad inserts;
- a pair of underwear;
- zip-lock bags;
- and a colourful drawstring bag to carry everything in.
Each kit lasts up to three years, or 150 days of coverage.
Since 2016, the Mazzarello Vocational School has made over 200 kits for Help Lesotho to distribute to adolescent girls enrolled in high school. Funds raised through the Pearls4Girls program and Help Lesotho’s ‘Gifts That Give Hope’ program guarantee that many more kits will be delivered in the coming years – giving back thousands of school days to girls who might otherwise be forced to stay home.
The impact of the reusable sanitary kits is remarkable. They are one of the simplest and most cost-effective strategies for empowering girls to stay in school. Best of all, by having the kits made by girls in Lesotho, this project has DOUBLE the impact for Lesotho’s vulnerable girls!
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