Hello everyone! My name is Lucy, and I’m running WomenChoice in Tanzania. Let me share our story of helping Tanzanian girls with their menstruations!
When I was still a student, my teacher asked me to explain a math problem. As I stood up, I felt something warm oozing from my private parts. Students around me started whispering and even started laughing at me. My friend who sat behind me frantically told me to sit down. It was then that I noticed the stain on my skirt. This was my first ever menstruation.
Confused and embarrassed, I had to pick up a fellow students’ white socks hanging on the cloth line, and that is what I used for the first time to manage my period. Being a first timer, with no experience on MHM information, and being unable to afford sanitary towels lead to me having to tear my bedsheets to manage my menses.
This might sound like a funny childhood story, but this is a prevalent problem in my home country of Tanzania.
Lack of access to proper menstrual products due to economic challenges is called menstruation poverty.According to Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research(NIMR), menstruation poverty is widespread in Tanzania, especially among low-income women. The women who cannot afford conventional pads have to resort to dirty rags and fiber from plant leaves. In the worst case, they turn to transactional sex in order to afford pads.
Young students in Tanzania miss on average 4~8 days of school per month, and 48~84 days per year due to menstruation. An even bigger issue is that this is not perceived as an urgent problem. 83% of schools in Tanzania lack changing rooms, and about half of students cannot afford disposable pads. Students not having access to pads not only harms their health, but causes educational, social, and economic inequalities.
I worked as a health practitioner in Tanzania for 10 years. Whenever our hospital would arrange a field visit to villages, I would meet young girls who had trouble getting decent pads. These students were suffering from both menstrual stresses and rashes from unsanitary menstruation management methods.
I witnessed the problematic status quo of menstruation in Africa, and realized that affordable pads and stable income was the key to solving this problem. Started with my friends who shared the same vision, WomenChoice Industries envisions a menstruation poverty-less Tanzania!
Our reusable pads called the Salma Pads are up to 90% cheaper than the alternatives. Cheap and accessible pads are much more impactful than you may think. Not only does it alleviate some economic pressure from the socially vulnerable women, but it also lets them attend more school days and ultimately achieve greater success in their lives.
WomenChoice also focuses on solving poverty among women. Socially vulnerable women can work together with WomenChoice either as a producer or a distributor. They are also offered 10% of their sales profit as royalties. By offering employment opportunities to these women, we empower them financially and in the digital literacy department.
Now we have our sights on the greater picture. We wish to bring positive change to all of Tanzania and Africa, beyond affordable pads.
With your help, WomenChoice is planning to become more accessible for women who want to team up with us. Due to the recent fluctuations in currency, a lot of women could not afford the fabric used for pads. We will be addressing this problem with this fund by providing them with fabric for free. With access to more fabric, we’ll be able to help more women who want to work with WomenChoice!
WomenChoice is also planning on visiting schools in Tanzania. We will provide them with our pads and sexual education on menstruations in 25 different schools! Your donations will be used on travel expenses for this cause.
Our goal is to provide clean pads and education to 15,000 Tanzanian women and girls, and create 200 more jobs for the socially vulnerable by the end of 2024. We’ve definitely come a long way, but we will not be stopping any time soon!
WomenChoice Industries dreams of a world where no girl is forced to miss school due to menstruation poverty. Join hands and save lives!