Period Pride: The fight to save young girls’ futures

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Period Pride – Keep our Girls in School campaign aims to empower girls to stay in school while menstruating. Photo supplied

After working to promote menstrual health and girls’ education for several years, two women from different backgrounds and parts of the world united to start looking for youth ambassadors and partners in Cambodia to expand their vision of protecting girls’ futures.

The Period Pride – Keep our Girls in School campaign was devised by Trine Angeline Sig from Denmark and Thelma Mafukidze from Zimbabwe. And it all started with a simple phone call.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Trine Angeline Sig has made it her mission to deliver sanitary pads to needy girls and women worldwide. Photo supplied

As they spoke over the phone, they realised that young girls around the world are in desperate need for menstrual hygiene products.

Their campaign aims to tackle the negative social impacts associated with periods and poverty among financially disadvantaged communities by educating people and raising menstrual health awareness.

The pair of social activists officially launched their project on October 4, 2018.

The 47-year-old Sig and 34-year-old Mafukidze believe that unless they give girls access to women’s health education and hygiene products, period poverty will continue to be a major obstacle hindering girls from reaching their full potential.

“We will not sit by and watch period poverty hinder our girls from realising their full academic potential every four days they menstruate,” the co-founders told The Post.

Mafukidze experienced this issue firsthand when she worked as a rural school teacher in 2009. Each month, she noticed female students missing class and at first, she didn’t know why.

She says: “The signs of period poverty were there right in front of me. However, I failed to identify the problem. Now I recall how a handful of girls would miss school, sometimes three or even four days every month.

“With the growing interest in period poverty topics, I understand why the girls sometimes missed school and how they must have felt. I know this one truth – we are the solution to period poverty, and we have always been the solution.”

Mafukidze thought providing menstrual hygiene products would be one of the best methods to ensure girls don’t miss a day of school.

Through her work with the NGO Energy Globe Award, she had the opportunity to learn about new innovative sustainable technologies and products such as Safepad, a reusable sanitary pad which helps prevent infections.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Menstruation often comes with negative stigmas in poor, disadvantaged communities. Photo supplied

She says she believes products like these will help transform the lives of many girls in need of infection-free and sustainable hygiene kits.

Across the globe, Sig was learning about the myths and taboos surrounding menstruation which were leading to unfortunate consequences for girls. She learned that some girls and women chose to stay home instead of attending school or work.

Sig says: “One of the causes is a lack of access to sanitary pads, educational information and/or proper sanitation. The reusable sanitary pad addresses part of this problem and Safepad offers a sterile and durable solution.”

Before co-founding Period Pride, Sig founded the company Real Relief with her friend Torben Holm Larsen in 2014. Since then, they have delivered more than one million eco-friendly and infection-free sanitary pads to needy girls and women worldwide.

“It is an innovative product that prevents infections while also helping to prevent the social isolation of girls and women in third-world countries,” Sig says.

Sig then teamed up with Mafukidze to create Period Pride and encourage females to take pride in what they’re born with.

On World Menstrual Health Day on May 28, the Period Pride team invited colleagues and friends to discuss information and ideas surrounding the topic on WhatsApp.

“It went very well as we had 250-plus participants from across the globe made up of mothers, girls, women and men who joined us in celebration of the Menstrual Hygiene Day—the 28th of May,” Sig says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Thelma Mafukidze (left) says providing sanitary supplies will help keep girls in school. Photo supplied

Thanks to the celebration, the group has increased in number, adding more people to the fight for healthy and safe menstruation for girls and women to enable them to chase their dreams.

“In total, the event had 12 presenters over 12 hours. The presenters’ list was made up of extraordinary, powerful and unique individuals from all over the world,” Sig says.

The team plans on using WhatsApp to enable more discussions on the topic and find country-specific solutions to the problem of girls missing out on opportunities simply because of a period.

According to the co-founders, the campaign will help smooth out the physical and emotional transition from childhood to adulthood.

The Period Pride team wants to expand their coverage globally and Cambodian youths have been invited to get involved.

“On WhatsApp, we can have ambassadors on board from both the adult’s and children’s groups. We are planning to have special groups for these ambassadors and provide them with a link once it’s out and ask those interested to register. Each month, the group will be given a task depending on their country and region,” they say.

For more information visit periodpridecampaign.org, check out the group’s Facebook page: PeriodPride-keepourgirlsinschool or email [email protected].