04 Jun Empowering Teenage Girls in our Sponsorship Program
As the Lahash East Africa staff travels with Executive Director Dan Holcomb to visit our Lahash ministry partners in Kenya and Tanzania, we are excited to feature this story by Enrica Wright. Enrica is our Child Welfare Manager and her professionalism, compassion, and confidence have played a major role in bringing the vision of our Menstrual Health Management program to life. She enjoys connecting with the girls in the Sponsorship Program around this important topic, and they love having her as a mentor and role model!
Management of menstruation presents substantial challenges to girls in low-income settings especially around East Africa. Many girls in both primary and secondary schools in rural areas skip school when their monthly menstrual cycle is in full swing. This is mainly because they are subjected to embarrassment and fear of teasing related to menstruation. Together with menstrual pain and lack of effective materials for menstrual hygiene management, this leads to school absenteeism, thus negatively affecting their school performance. Social studies in schools around East Africa show that poverty and menstruation are some of the key factors associated with low school attendance among girls. This is affirmed by an exploratory study that we conducted for 150 teenage and young adult girls who are under our Lahash Sponsorship Program in Rwanda and Tanzania. Close to the problem of school absenteeism due to menstrual challenges is the high level exposure of girls to sexual abuse and exploitation. This happens when girls seek financial help from older men in order to purchase sanitary pads.
Is it appropriate that young girls miss a percent of their school days every year or be subjected to abuse due to lack of information or a lack of sanitary products? This is a question that we asked ourselves at Lahash and a question that inspired the vision behind our Menstrual Health Management program.
In March 2020, we launched our pilot Menstrual Health Management (MHM) program which mainly focuses on distribution of sanitary pads to girls in the Sponsorship Program, training them on menstrual hygiene and sexual reproduction as well as personal diligence on issues related to sex. We reached out to 150 teenage girls in Rwanda and Tanzania.
This year, 2021, even amidst Covid-19 challenges, I’ve been so privileged to travel together with our team members to visit our partners in Tanzania. It was so nice meeting up with the girls at Path Of Hope in Shinyanga and at Grace & Healing Ministry in Dodoma and holding cordial conversations with them. I did some recap and follow-ups on the previous year’s trainings and distributions. In addition, our team was also able to distribute sanitary pads to 105 girls.
Many of these girls are already so thankful for the MHM support they receive from Lahash. Christina said, “Thank you very much for standing with us, for teaching us about menstrual hygiene, and also for the sanitary pads. These pads are very useful to us. Now I personally don’t have many worries when my menses approaches.”
We look forward to doing more trainings in the future, to reaching more girls in need, and also involving teenage boys in our trainings in the future so they can be advocates and partners in the cause. Creation of awareness for both genders will help reduce period shaming for the girls.
To donate to our Lahash Menstrual Health Management (MHM) program, visit our general donation page and select the Menstrual Health checkbox for your gift.