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Donating Pads

Universal education is one of the millennial development goals set to be achieved in the world by 2015 — we have less than 500 days to go. According to UNICEF, there are 31 million girls of primary school age not enrolled in school. How can we achieve this goal when girls are not enrolled in school or drop out due to early child marriages and other cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), poverty, lack of school fees, sexual violence and lack of SANITARY TOWELS.

How can we achieve this goal when girls miss close to 5 days of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels? Girls from poor families use unhygienic methods during their menstruation such as old pieces of clothes, tissue papers, cotton wool, feathers, and old goat skins. Others end up engaging in transactional sex in order to get money to buy sanitary towels. This exposes the young girls to risks of getting HIV/AIDS and some end up pregnant, thus dropping out of school. There was a feature aired by citizen media in Kenya in 2013 showing the dire need of sanitary towels in rural Kenya. Sad how something that should be considered as a basic need is assumed to be a luxury.

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Pic courtesy of UNICEF

According to Ministry of Education in Kenya, there are 2.5 million girls aged between 9 and 18 years who need sanitary towels in Kenya. The government only caters for 568,925 girls from primary school (class 6-8) from 7,141 schools in 142 districts, which is only a fraction leaving out close to 2M girls who are in need, the demand is high.

Due to this gap I founded Donate a Pad initiative in December 2012 to try and help in my community. The initiative is mainly run from my salary and a monthly contribution from my best friend Mona Manani. Every month I buy sanitary towels and donate to 200 girls who cannot afford sanitary towels in the rural area in 9 schools in Kitui, Kenya. Basically girls who cannot afford sanitary towels miss school close to five days in a month hence affecting their performance and lower their self esteem hence affecting their confidence in school.

Donate A Pad ensures that the girls are in school by providing sanitary towels, their self esteem and dignity is restored. Since I started we have noticed the performance of the girls has improved and they are more confident. I also provide mentoring programs by connecting the girls with mentors to guide them through their education and career choice. The girls write to me sharing their dreams of what they want to be in future and how Donate A Pad is helping them in achieving their dreams. It’s so fulfilling to see girls excited about education. This inspires me to do what I do to make sure the girls are in school. No girl should miss school because they lack sanitary towels.

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Teacher Esther distributing the sanitary towels

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Chief Ndoo, Edna, Maureen and Kivulu Primary School with their Sanitary Towels.

So I have a plan in the near future of starting a manufacturing firm that will use agricultural waste materials such as banana fibers and papyrus to make affordable sanitary towels that will cater for the demand of sanitary towels as well as keep the girls in school. Am also doing a research on other sustainable alternative options such as cloth pads and menstrual cups that can be used to cater for this lack. We are also thinking of growth and soon we will be in Kisii, Meru, and Lesotho I will keep you posted as the plans unravel. Hopefully one day we will be able to donate to all the girls that need sanitary towels.

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Maureen at Makerere University displaying the biodegradable sanitary towels

As of now you can donate a pad and help keep a girl in class. Did you know with only KES 396 ($4.50) you can keep a girl in school for the whole year?

I believe if you educate a girl you educate the whole community, and Nelson Mandela summed it all by saying “Education is the only weapon we can use to change the world.” 

Have a lovely Read,

Maureen


About the author of this post:

maureen

Maureen runs Donate A Pad Initiative, and is a Mandela Washington Fellow 2014, Young African Leader. She is passionate about empowering young girls to complete education and is a mentor. She loves telling her story to inspire people to reach out to their dreams and be more. “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”~Aldous Huxley

 

We’ve written before about Izzy, who brings GladRags cloth pads to the orphanage in Nepal where she volunteers. Seeing a need for reliable menstrual protection, Izzy first contacted us way back 2010 to help her provide pads to the young women living at the orphanage.

She recently reached out to us again for more pads, and shared these photos and words of gratitude with us:

kabita

 

“I am happy to have the cloth pads because they are soft and are not harmful to my health. Thank you, GladRags.” -Kabita, 15

 

 

samjhana

 

 “I like the pads because they can be reused and last longer than the plastic pads.” – Samjhana, 15

 

 

suraj

 

“I am happy for the pads because sometimes the girls threw the plastic pads in the garden and inappropriate places.” – Suraj, 15

 

 

sudha 

“The GladRags are comfortable and they don’t pollute the environment.” -Sudha, 15


 

 

Big thanks to Izzy and Lia for coordinating this effort to make safe, effective menstrual products available to girls across the globe!

About the author of this post:

tracy is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, practice yoga, and hang out with her cats.

Great news from our friends at Empower Women in Africa! They’ve been chosen by Huffington Post as one of the top start-up NGOs in the nation! There are five different categories, each with two organizations in competition for a $10,ooo grant from IGNITEgood. This means that Empower Women in Africa is now competing against just one other organization within the Health and Wellness category!

Why choose EWA over their category competitor? Three reasons: sustainability, local ownership, and low-cost/far reach.

“EWA provides a means to increase education for girls, which creates opportunities lasting throughout their lifetimes. EWA is transitioning to local production, where women are taught to make and sell pads with locally available resources so communities can reap the benefits long after EWA is gone. To date, EWA has reached more than 2,500 girls throughout Africa solely through volunteer work and donations.” – Lori Schippers, founder of EWA

To cast your vote — no login, account setup, or email address entry form required:

1. Visit  the voting page here

2. Scroll down to the Health & Wellness category

3. Select Empower Women in Africa and click VOTE!

We hope you’ll join us in supporting this amazing organization!

Here at GladRags, we’re always looking for ways to improve the way we do business. Sometimes, the solution is obvious (recycle everything) and sometimes, it’s not so straightforward. When we became a Benefit Corporation (more on that here!) we realized that we had room for improvement with our merchant services provider.

First off, what in the world is a merchant services provider? They’re the ones who make accepting credit cards possible, by processing the customer’s card and charging a small fee to the seller. As a company that sells products online, this is a service we use every day. So we thought: how can we make this super important part of our operations fall in line with our values?

After some research, we discovered Dharma Merchant Services and fell in love. Like GladRags, Dharma is also a Benefit corporation, with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Even better, they donate 10% of their revenue from fees to a non-profit organization of our choice!

We’re proud to have chosen to continue our support of Empower Women in Africa with this added revenue source, and thank YOU, our customers, for every transaction you make with us. Any time you place an order with us, you’ll be adding to the amount Dharma Merchant Services will send to Empower Women in Africa, at no cost to you. Just another reason to feel amazing about shopping at GladRags.com!

We want to hear from you: what else can we do to make our impact on people and the planet even more positive? Tell us in the comments!

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Day of Peace

International Day of Peace | 10% off with Purchase of an Empower Kit

Today is the International Day of Peace, a day set aside by the UN’s General Assembly to devote to the strengthening of the ideals of peace within and among nations.

This year, world leaders met in Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, and in keep with the context of that summit, the theme for this year’s observance of the International Day of Peace is “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future”. Read more on un.org…

Reach Out…Affect a Life in Africa

For girls in rural Africa, the start of menstruation can mean the end of an education and the start of a lifetime of missed opportunities. GladRags Empower Kits provide sustainable menstrual supplies that will improve the lives of impoverished girls and help them to reach their full potential.

This weekend, adding an Empower Kit to your cart on GladRags.com will automatically give you 10% off everything else you’re purchasing. It’s our way of saying “thanks” in observance of this Day of Peace.

BCorpDid you Know that GladRags is a B Corp?

We were recently certified as a Benefit Corporation, a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Through a company’s public B Impact Report, anyone can access performance data about the social and environmental practices that stand behind their products.

View GladRags’ B Impact Report

A huge thank you to everyone who purchased an Empower Kit through GladRags.com — your donations are making a difference! Read on to hear from Patty how cloth menstrual pads can help empower women in Africa.

teaching families about cloth menstrual pads

I just returned from Uganda and had a wonderful time. The new uniforms and sanitary kits were well received. Hussein stood in front of the village parents and gave a speech about the importance of girls and education and about the GladRags cloth menstrual pad kits – some of the parents got embarrassed and Hussein was really funny addressing their embarrassment. Amazing that a school in rural Uganda has a more “open” community about talking on girl’s issues than we do here in the states!

empower kit

There is a teacher at the schools that meets monthly with older girls to talk all about their personal issues – like a mentor – really cool. We are encouraging the girls who got sanitary kits to pick a younger girl at the school to mentor and take under their wing in order to help them be more comfortable with talking about girl issues.

Thank you for all your support and feel free to continue contributing if you would like to – we can’t express our appreciation enough to all those who support One School at a Time.

Patty GilbertCo-founder of One School at a Time

26 young women and girls were completely attentive at a recent class at their rural school in Uganda. The topic was menstruation and the facilitator was Hussein, program manager for One School at a Time.There had never been a class like this one before and the subject was both interesting and relevant. Some of the girls were already menstruating and some were not. One girl commented “menstruation is a problem because it comes when we are not prepared.”

The discussion then became a brainstorming session on how the girls could be better prepared. Everyone agreed that it would be helpful to count the 28 days between cycles, (noting plenty of variation) and then acknowledged that sanitary pads and nickers (the Ugandan word for underwear) would be needed. Hussein asked, “who needs pads?” and every single girl raised her hand.
Menstruation is one of the reasons that girls drop out of school in Uganda. Parents often can not afford to provide sanitary pads and so, reluctant to be humiliated at school, girls choose to stay home. They miss valuable class time and some eventually just drop out of school completely.

One School at a Time is fundraising now to purchase 100 Empower Kits ($22 each) for each older girl at our two partner schools in Uganda. The kit contains 5 re-useable pads. These pads are culturally appropriate (Ugandan girls are familiar with washing their menstrual rags and re-using) and will provide enough sanitary supplies to last each girl for at least three to five years. By donating a kit, you provide these girls with security and confidence and most importantly, an opportunity to stay in school. Join with us in this beautiful endeavor!

We’re excited to announce our new partnership with Empower Women in Africa! Together, we hope to bring educational and economic opportunities to girls and women in rural Africa. And you can help: by purchasing an Empower Kit to be given to a girl in need, you can help her complete her education and achieve her dreams!

Here’s Lori, founder of EWA, to share with you the successes of their first year:

“Empower Women in Africa was founded in February 2011 with the vision of providing a pathway to education for girls throughout rural Africa. To accomplish this, we provide scholarships to girls living in poverty and showing promise in the classroom, and by providing reusable cloth menstrual pads so there is not a struggle every month to find sanitary products with limited funds.

In our first year, we have been able to provide scholarships to five girls at Andara Combined School in Namibia. These scholarships cover every cost that comes along with their education from their school fees, school uniform and even a food stipend for their families when good grades are achieved to encourage the family to take an interest in their daughter’s education.

We have also been instrumental in getting over 2200 cloth menstrual pads to girls in Namibia and Uganda. The recipients have ranged from an orphanage with Show Mercy International, schools, conferences and after school clubs. Thanks to GladRags, Days for Girls and a growing population of volunteers for getting all of the pads sewn.

In 2012, we’re excited to be working with GladRags to be their exclusive pad donation partner. Because of their commitment to our cause, our pad program is expected to at least double in our second year! This also opens up more time to focus on our scholarship program and we already have five more girls selected for sponsorship!”

We first met Helen in her guest post about the Female Hygiene program she’s working on in Kenya as part of her Peace Corps Volunteer position. Below is an update on how the project is going!

Hello GladRags readers! We’ve started our sanitary pads educational program this week here in the Nyanza Province of Kenya. We started with a small group of ten girls from Omiro Mixed Secondary School. This school was priority number one due to the girl’s daily interactions with the opposite sex (some schools in our location are female only). The schools has 110 females enrolled, so we are planning on 4 more groups of 25 girls before the term ends in August.

We discussed the high cost of disposable pads and then I explained about the donations made so they could have the materials to make their own re-usable pads, they are very grateful. Here is an online album that I will update regularly with photos of the project: https://picasaweb.google.com/mcguirkhelen/FemaleHygeine . The girls were so excited to work on this project and began asking many questions relevant to the subject. More to come soon, as the project is quickly gaining momentum!

Helen

Want to help other women in Africa gain access to reusable pads? Click here to learn how you can donate GladRags to women and girls in Zimbabwe!

Izzy V., who brought 50 donated GladRags with her to Nepal, emailed us about how the girls received their new pads. Want to help other girls and women across the world? Click here to learn about our current donation program.

I recently returned from a few months in Nepal… and my girls were so happy (in private) to receive the pads. I know for them it is a huge relief to not have to rely on future volunteers for disposables. Two of the girls [note from GladRags: we decided only to use their first initial] wrote thank you’s which are quite tattered, so if you do not mind I will transcribe them -

Dear GladRags,
Hi, I am S. I live in an Orphanage. My orphanage is named NWCSS. I read in class 7. I like red colour. In future I would like to be a teacher. My birthday is October 28th.
At last I would like to say that! Thank you!
(S, age 13)

Dear GladRags,
I am R. from orphanage. I read in grade 8. My best color is red and I would like to a singer in my future. My birthday is June 28th. At last I would like to say that I thank you (for those things)*.

(R, age 14, * words in parenthesis were crossed out however i found it a bit funny myself, so why not include it.)

This is Izzy again! I am so thankful for your generosity, and while the girls were shy about receiving their gift, I could see that they were grateful. I did follow up a few times just with a simple inquiry of how the pads were working, and the response was positive.

A second orphanage I work with also has a women’s sewing program that they started just as I was leaving. I am thinking that maybe when I return reusable pads could be a project for them to think about.

I cannot say thank you enough, and as I have said before, if anyone from your company ever wants a tour of Nepal just let me know!