SisterPad creating educational inclusivity

17 May 2016 | Youth

As of 2012, one in ten African girls misses between three to five days per month of schooling due to the lack of sanitary wear. SisterPad enables mobility, access to education and opportunity for these girls who often live on the fringes of society and cannot afford basic and essential health services due to poverty.
Sister Namibia, who runs the initiative, is a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to see the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women takes full effect in Namibia under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Three. Through information sharing and practical means Sister Namibia wishes to equip women to become agents of change in their own lives and that of their communities.
As part of this plight, Sister Namibia created SisterPad to try and assist in tackling some of the issues that inhibit the socio-economic opportunities for women and girls in Namibia. Although the project has been running for just over three years, Sister Namibia is planning on having a launch around June, July this year to raise awareness on the project as well as to get people on board who are willing to assist Sister Namibia with this project to reach more young girls who are in dire need of sanitary pads.
According to SisterPad website, close to 760 girls have received sanitary pads from the organisation, for use when they are needed.
This project is said to be one of the more important projects spearheaded by Sister Namibia because it has a direct financial impact on the lives of the girls that receive the reusable pads. “It is very economical for the girls who receive the pads as they can be reused for minimum of up to two years by washing it out and using it again each time they are on their menstrual cycle” Sister Namibia said.
Feedback on SisterPad received from some of the girls says expresses their gratitude and that the girls are happy because they no longer have to miss school because of lack of sanitary pads. There is also a sense of safety and security for some of the girls as well as the ability to save some money for other needs, as well as general gratitude for staying clean and being able to study more being recorded from some of the recipients of the pads.
SisterPad describes the value of the reusable pad as a sustainable solution as the pads can be used up to two years, and increases school attendance by 15 – 25 per cent. The sanitary pads also enable greater academic performance amongst the girls and increase the confidence levels of the girls, as well as creating agency for the girls to become self-determined.
It is one of the ways in which Sister Namibia can help the country minimise the number of girls who miss school during the menstrual cycle because they are unable to afford sanitary pads.
The pads are made from 100 per cent cotton and ProSoft Waterproof (PUL). Produced in the USA, it is Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act certified and food safe complaint. The waterproof PUL is the key component of the SisterPad, for being breathable, soft, stretchy, flexible and durable.
It is also one of the ways in which the organisation tries to curb teenage pregnancy as well as minimise the new HIV/AIDs infections amongst school girls, as we have learned that some of them engage in sexual activities and at times unprotected sex with older men in order to get money to afford basic needs such as sanitary pads.
Staff at Sister Namibia said that they have come across people who would say “Why would someone reuse a pad or even think of washing out a bloody pad to use it again?” Sister Namibia said that they always tell people to go out there and see the reality of what these young girls have to endure because of poverty and lack of sanitary services or products.
“If parents are unable to afford their next meal, they are unlikely to prioritise or even afford sanitary pads for their daughters” a SisterPad representative stated.
With Sister Namibia’s own research as well as through media reports, the organisation has been able to see that the teenage pregnancy figures are shocking and many girls at time fall pregnant to avoid getting their periods.
After falling pregnant with no financial support, these girls at times resort to baby dumping, which is again one of the major problems facing the nation, Sister Namibia has identified.
“As it is the nation’s vision to have gender equality in education by 2030, Sister Namibia aims at assisting the government with the vision through the SisterPad project. On an average a girl misses school for three days a month, now imagine how many days that is in a school semester or a year” Sister Namibia stated.
The goal of SisterPad is to improve girls welfare and dignity, and especially to affect I creased school attendance and subsequent improved performance at school, which can contribute towards the completion of their primary and high school education.
The long-term consequences will be to have increased their earning potential as this increases with each grade completed and so breaks the cycle of poverty in their lives.
An indirect objective is that the pads will give girls less reason to resort to ‘sugar daddies’ for supply of basic needs like sanitary pads. Indirectly pregnancy and contracting STDs can be prevented through Sister Namibia supplying learners with SisterPads.
According to studies and reports such as the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development there is a multiplier effect on education for girls and women. It is held that more educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labour market, earn more money, have fewer children and provide better health care and education to their children.
In a multiplication effect, these improvements improve both the well-being of the particular individual, and often have an economically positive impact on the household, community and even future generations.
Some of the fundraising activities for SisterPad include a Quiz Night that is hosted by a group of volunteers that help put Sister Namibia raise money for the project.
The quiz nights are usually advertised on Facebook, and are done whenever the volunteers can find a venue that will be able to host their charity fund raisers.
Buy one SisterPad for only N$ 120. The details are: Sister Namibia Trust, Bank Windhoek, branch code 482172, account number 800 253 8992, and the organisations website, www.sisternamibia.org can be visited for more information.
Keith Vries

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