In Africa and Asia, a huge proportion of girls who are menstruating can’t afford sanitary towels. Instead, they’ll commonly use old cloths or rags. Reports suggest some girls even use unhygienic substances like leaves etc. Regardless of what they use as sanitary material, they’re very likely to skip school during their periods.
Research has estimated that 1 in 10 African adolescent girls misses school while menstruating. Many eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues. These include the fact that affordable sanitary products are not easy to access, the social taboos related to menstruation and the culture of silence that surrounds it.
Hassan Kiyungi, founder of Menstruation and Entrepreneurship Matters (MEMA) Tanzania discovered the difficulties that girls face during their menstruation cycle whilst on placement with Raleigh Tanzania on a WASH Project in Kanga village, Morogoro in 2017.
Together with his team at the time, they came up with MEMA TZ. This organization is continuing to raise awareness about Menstruation and Hygiene Management (MHM) and also entrepreneurship; how to make reusable pads that are both hygienic and cheap. MEMA TZ is based in Tanzania where they implement their projects with support from its’ co-founding members in the UK who organize fundraising activities. This cross-continental youth collaboration is vital to the sustainable success of the project.
MEMA TZ has a project called Menstruation and Early Pregnancy Program (MEEPRO). This program focuses on raising awareness about MHM, early pregnancies and donating sanitary pads to schools and communities. So far, the project has been able to reach 6000 students from 6 schools of which 4 are secondary schools and 2 are primary schools from Kilombero, Mvomero and Temeke District. To date, they have donated 650 sanitary pads, both disposable and reusable.
MEMA TZ played a big role in supporting the campaign #ElimuburePedibure that was initiated by Upendo Peneza (Member of Parliament) in Parliament earlier this year. The aim of the campaign was to get the government to understand that if they are providing free education, they should also provide free sanitary pads to girls in school to ensure that all children are able to access the education. The campaign proved a success; after support from many organizations and individuals, the government decided to put tax exemption on the Sanitary Pads. This is an exciting step for Tanzania and we look forward to seeing MEMA’s work continue.
Words by Maria Kwirine.