Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the Northern Uganda region, witnesses a huge percentage of girls dropping out of school due to teenage pregnancy. Due to the high poverty rate in this area, vulnerable, young girls end up being misled by boys who convince them that engaging in sex is the only way to get rid of their periods (thus eliminating the need to spend money on sanitary pads.) This causes rampant teen pregnancy that forces girls to drop out of school at a young age, destroys their chances of getting jobs, and ultimately prevents them from breaking out of the poverty cycle.
The lack of access to affordable sanitary pads for the women in the community exacerbates the uncomfortable nature of their menstruation process. We want to provide a year’s supply of sanitary pads, made by local women through Ugandan non-profit organization Volunteer Action Network, to the 47 girls enrolled in HCU’s Youth Literacy Program along with 70 adult women in the community.
The adult women in the community (many of whom are teenage, single mothers with an average of 7 children) requested that we come teach our lesson to them, as they want to become more knowledgable about the issue in the hope of preventing teen pregnancy for their daughters. By providing sanitary pads, we will be supporting the surrounding community by empowering the women and assisting with their struggle to manage the menstrual cycle that all women go through.
By opening up a conversation with the students and addressing the benefits of abstinence in order to prevent teen pregnancy, we broke down the taboo that this issue faces in Gulu. At the end of our first lesson in May 2017, girls excitedly described how they learned that it is essential to be abstinent and stay in school in order to have a bright future. However, we feel that our work is not over. By supporting the local women and girls impacted by HCU in Gulu, the community as a whole is irreversibly strengthened.
Targeting this issue addresses one of the many factors that contribute to the poverty cycle that plagues the region. Equipping girls and women with sanitary pads and knowledge about their health allows them to attain a higher education, which leads to jobs that will lift them out of poverty.