Once girls are about twelve years old the school attendance rate in Mali and other developing countries begins to drop dramatically. There are several reasons for this, but an important one is that girls stay home during their monthly menses. With no pads or underwear it’s just a big embarrassing mess. So they remain home and fall further behind in school.
A company in Uganda has developed the AFRIpad. It’s a reusable pad that will last up to a year. By rotating three pads throughout the day, washing and drying in between use, girls are able to stay clean and in class.
Medical Missions Foundation has been providing pads during yearly mission trips to Uganda and accompanying them with kits that consist of three pairs of underwear, a washcloth and a bar of soap. The product and the education has been a great success there.
In October Ibrahima carried fifty AFRIpad packages back to Koro. And with the help of Tandi Toone and a great group of donors and shoppers from St Luke’s Hospital operating room a duffel bag was filled with fifty kits, which I carried to Grace School last week.
Kay Johnston, a recently retired ICU nurse from North Kansas City Hospital traveled with me to Koro. We met with Abel Kodio, the new school nurse. We explained the concept and he was optimistic and enthusiastic.
The next day Kay, Abel, a female teacher, and an English translator met with the middle school girls. They talked for over an hour and the discussion went great. The girls understood and were interested in trying the pads. They asked appropriate questions and good information was shared about hygiene and health.
Not everyone was there due to the New Year’s holiday. So the girls that were present will help Abel and the female teachers as they teach the rest of the girls about AFRIpads next week.
This is a wonderful project and one that really speaks to the intersection of health and education. It’s not an exaggeration to say that there is nothing more important to the future of Uganda than the education of women. AFRIpads and the kits are something that we hope to continue to supply and educate about long term. And we’ll be on the look out for other ways to aid these talented, hopeful girls.