Help Give A Teenage Girl Her Dignity Back
Posted by Francesca Rutherford on Monday 24th September 2018
Click on the video above to learn about our partner Dignity Period
Video credit Dignity Period. Photography Joni Kabana
Our parnter Dignity Period works in the Tigray region of Ethiopia helping to give girls the information and support they need to manage their period. Sadly menstruation is largely misunderstood in Ethiopia and particularly in the rural areas of the country, Dignity Period hope to change these misconceptions and ensure that girls feel comfortable and confident talking about their bodies.
Harifeya is 16 years old and at the top of her class at Adigudem Secondary School in a small town in Tigray. She is from a farming family in Wujurat, about 22 miles away from her school, and is only able to visit her family home once a month. For girls like Harifeya, starting your period is a difficult experience.
‘When I first started to menstruate, I did not know what it was...[it] came suddenly when I was working on the farm... I was very shocked and embarrassed…I did not tell anyone the first day. The second day the blood came again. I was very embarrassed…’
In rural Ethiopia menstruating girls have little support. This important step into womanhood is not openly talked about and is seen as a source of shame. 98% of girls in Tigray lack access to sanitary products which are expensive and difficult to find. Many don’t possess underwear either. Girls are forced to use whatever materials are available such as grass, leaves, old rags or nothing at all.
‘I went home, hid… and tore an old scarf. I used this to manage my menstruation. I couldn’t attend class ... I did not go to class for three days.’
Harifeya could not ask her parents to purchase menstrual products because they are too expensive and she was ashamed. During their periods girls are afraid to go to school where they often face ridicule and embarrassment. In addition to this, the majority of schools have inadequate, if any, toilet and washing facilities. As a result, many girls drop out of school altogether, missing their chance to create a better future for themselves.
‘I thought people would stare at me and insult me. Whenever I menstruated, I did not go outside of the house. I didn’t even to go to school…..this affected everything in my life.’
There are 9 million girls in Ethiopia. Educated girls make better decisions about their bodies, their lives and their future families. They have access to better opportunities, employment, are at less risk of dying in childbirth and are more likely to send their own children to school
‘…Girls should not be shocked or afraid when they start menstruating because it is something natural that happens to all girls when they grow to [become] a woman.’
A reusable sanitary pack costs just £3 to make and provides girls with everything they need to manage their period for 12-18 months.
We are working hard with Dignity Period in order to give girls In Tigray the confidence to manage their period and continue with their studies free from fear and embarassment.