This month we have a special guest post from amazing Hannah, a teen from Kelowna, B.C. interested in menstrual hygiene and access to education for girls across the world, and who is making reusable pads for our Teen Health and Education Program.
Hi everybody! My name is Hannah, I’m 15 years old, and I’m in the 10th grade at KSS in Kelowna, B.C. I’m interested in women’s equality and humanitarianism because I believe that everybody should have the right to equal opportunities. I started learning about menstrual issues about a year ago. I thought that it was unacceptable that so many girls had to go through their periods without the proper knowledge and supplies. Girls end up missing so much school due to their periods and subsequently they miss out on so many opportunities. I realized how truly important it is to educate girls when I went on a volunteer trip to Ecuador this summer through ME to WE (a social enterprise that creates conscious products based in Toronto). Meeting the girls there who had the opportunity to go to school showed me how life-changing an education is.
Even when girls do have the opportunity to go to school and get an education, they often miss school or have to drop out because they don’t have the proper products to deal with their periods. “The stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation directly inhibit young women from pursuing an education” – Meghan Markle for an article written in TIME. When we give girls the tools and knowledge to deal with their periods, the chances of them dropping out of school will lower dramatically. Educating girls will enable them to earn more money, marry later, have fewer kids, have healthier families, and it will help break the cycle of poverty. I believe girls around the world should have access to menstrual products and that is why I’m starting a company called Wings & Wishes. I’ll be making jewelry, selling it online, and the profits will go towards purchasing the materials to make reusable pads for girls in developing countries. Reusable pads are the ideal solution because disposable products are only a one-time use, and some under-resourced countries do not have waste and sanitation system challenges. Some girls will use things like mud, sticks, dirty rags, and leaves in place of pads. I couldn’t imagine having to use things like that, but it is the sad reality that many girls face every month. Thankfully there are organizations like Shanti Uganda that are working with communities on this reality.
I found Shanti Uganda this past year as I was doing research on menstrual health. What really intrigued me about their organization was how broad and effective their programs were. They offer maternal and infant care, nutrition, and a community garden, as well as teen education/empowerment. They not only educate women and girls but last year they also had classes for men and boys which I think is important because real change happens when everybody is involved! I was so inspired by the work Shanti Uganda is doing that I made a presentation to the Global Awareness Club at school suggesting Shanti Uganda as the global charity that we should fundraise for this year. I was so excited when the club voted to support Shanti Uganda! I’m thankful to have the opportunity to fundraise for Shanti Uganda at school and to team up with them to get the pads I make to the girls through their teen empowerment program! By improving the life of one girl at a time, there will be a ripple effect throughout her life and her community as she spreads her knowledge and compassion.