A lion heart and baby steps

Since the last time I wrote it somehow feels like nothing has changed and like a lot has changed simultaneously. Life is full of fun, adventure as well as some challenges. Sometimes it can feel like days become weeks and before you know it, it’s a new month. I’m seeing this as a sign that this has become my new normal, and Mbale has begun to really feel like home!

I’ve continued to teach in the two young mums groups and one of the local primary schools. I’ve been building up a curriculum for schools, the young mums groups and groups for the wider community. Each of these groups have different audiences with their own needs. It has been so exciting to see these groups, particularly the adult groups who may not have had much teaching surrounding women’s health, lap up all the information I’m giving and it’s been so much fun answering their many questions. It’s keeping me on my toes!!

But Tuesday was a particularly exciting day. Tuesday was the day that we began giving out packs of sanitary pads which were so generously supported by so many of you. Each pack is in a drawstring bag and contains a piece of underwear, a piece of soap, two wings and eight sanitary pads. If the pack is used well, it should last for up to five years.

If you have been following my journey, you will know that I am hugely passionate about women’s rights, both in advocating for them and empowering women with knowledge about health so that they can share this information with others and that they can make fully informed decisions about their own healthcare. I know that period poverty exists everywhere, but it was a shock to learn just how much of a problem it is here. To hear that many young girls do not have access to proper sanitary wear and the impact which this can have ignited my protective lion heart.

To know that there are often one of three options for many of those I live and work alongside was completely shocking. A lack of access to these products means that many girls will have to miss up to one week of school a month, putting them at a disadvantage against their peers. Secondly, to be told by young girls in schools that they are having to use makeshift materials such as newspaper, clothing and pieces of mattress, was heart breaking. This can often lead to infections, and again, time off from school. Sadly, it is also not unheard of for girls and women here to prostitute themselves for these products which can lead to sexually transmitted infections, young girls becoming pregnant, and therefore being forced to leave school.

To know that access to something as simple as sanitary pads could free a girl or a young woman from these three options ignited my lion heart. A heart which is determined to see change, to roar into the silence, to raise awareness of this simple issue which has such large and widespread impact and to seek solutions which promote long-term and sustainable change.

Tuesday was a day that we saw the first baby steps into bringing about change. We went into a small village school and we discussed menstruation and menstrual health and we gave out sanitary pads to fifty girls in the equivalent of the year five and six classes. To see their hunger to learn more about their bodies, how they work, how they can care for themselves was inspiring. To see and hear their joy at receiving such a simple but powerful gift, one which frees them from choosing between these three options, was amazing!

Seeing all of this unfold, and being just a small part of this was just incredible. I was so grateful to get to partner with all those who had joined in this vision to protect these young girls and to provide them with an alternative option. Thank you so so much to all of those who so kindly and generously donated towards making these packs. Please know that your donation has a very real and tangible impact on so many lives here and we can’t wait to give out the rest of the packs which you so generously contributed towards!

But it also ignited my lion heart. It was so wonderful to give to these fifty girls, but what about the hundreds, thousands and even millions of others who we didn’t reach? What happens once these packs have been worn out? What will these fifty girls use for sanitary wear then?

I am so aware that this project is wonderful, but it is just baby steps. Important baby steps which have a significant impact on the lives of all those we manage to reach, but still baby steps.

So we need to come up with a plan. We are hoping to take this project into a slightly different direction. To teach young girls and women how to make their own pads with materials and equipment which they have access to. That way, we can reach more people, we can provide a more long-term solution.

But I need help. It’s a big undertaking, and I have no idea how it will work. I’m trying to put together a plan, but I’m not yet sure of logistics. I need to learn how to make a pad in a way which a young girl will be able to replicate. This is challenging when a lot of the materials we have been using so far have been out of the price range which the girls we are hoping to teach can afford. Should we give out equipment such as scissors, pins etc which girls may not have access to, materials which are the most comfortable and absorbant which may not be affordable, or do we look to employ someone to spread this teaching further and wider?

First of all, I would love your prayers. We need wisdom to make sure that we are starting something which is sustainable in the long term and which the girls will be able to replicate on their own for years to come.

Secondly, I’d love your ideas. I know that this is so much bigger than me. Even bigger than my organisation, my town and country. If you have any experience or ideas on how we could do this, then please send me a message.

And finally, if this is also something which you’re passionate about, then we would love to partner with you financially too. Any amount, no matter how big or small would have a significant impact. If this is something you would be interested in, then I have left the link to the justgiving page on the “Get Involved” page of this blog.

As always, thanks for all your love, support and encouragements. It means the world to me!

Sending love and thanks from Mbale x

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