I never really understood my Dad’s very real logistical headache having a wife and a ton of daughters. That is not until we, as CiCA UK embarked on our reusable sanitary wear project.
I am a missionary kid. I was born in Ghana and spent the first 13 years of my life there. Our routine consisted of three years in Ghana and then 7 months back in England to visit our supporting churches, re group, get medical check-ups and (For Mum and Dad) to pack supplies to be shipped out to Ghana to carry us through for the next 3 years. This was barrel loads of necessities. In those days (a good many years ago now) it was near impossible to get basic commodities in Ghana. Every birthday present or Christmas present was considered and packed along with the endless packet curries and beef stroganoff, tea bags and coffee and occasionally the odd box of Quality Street that would remain in the barrels until Christmas. Needless to say, by the final year of the three, these chocolates had melted and reformed many times and often had to be “shaved” to de-mould them.
But my Dad’s greatest challenge wasn’t in those initial years and it didn’t have anything to do with Quality Streets. Dad’s “furlough” challenge began as his many daughters began to grow up. Mum and Dad would have to forecast ahead and decide who might need the necessary “monthly thingies” (we didn’t talk openly about PERIODS in those days) in year one, year two and year three. How many did they need to ship out to Ghana to cater for all these girls for all these years.
How many daughters, how many each per day, per week, per month, per year, per three years.
I did a quick calculation.
1 wife x 20 items per one week = 20
4 daughters x 20 = 80
Total for one wife and four daughters = 100 per month
100 x 12months = 1200 per year
1200 per year x 3 years = 3600 “monthly thingies”.
Can you imagine going into Asda to buy that many!
These ‘monthly thingies’ were used to protect fragile items in transit, they padded out the beef stroganoff and packet curry and the tins of Quality Street were reduced to make room as more daughters got to “that age” and more space was needed. I don’t ever remember ever having to think about what to do month by month. There was always a barrel in the bathroom.
Living as an adult in Zambia was a piece of cake in comparison. I only have boys so really there was only ever me to consider. But I very quickly discovered over and over again just how difficult it was for women there. Something that we live with here as a regular monthly inconvenience has the power to interrupt education for at least one week, very single month for every single year for every single girl in Secondary school.
For generations this basic necessity has been hidden away, almost as if periods are a lifestyle choice rather than the unwelcome visitor they are.
It seems like for the first time in forever we have begun to talk about periods. Why has it taken us so long to talk about something that at different times will affect 49.6% of the world’s population.
Living in Zambia I began to stock pile items, I imagined I had many ‘daughters’ who would benefit from a similar approach my Mum and Dad had for us. Shipping them from England to Zambia on every trip, padding out suitcases, our travel cot and on one occasion they lined the inside of my guitar case! There were never enough to go around. A constant and continuous need month in month out. And the horror stories of the alternatives are quite harrowing.
At CiCA UK we know that education is necessary to help stop the cycle of poverty. Financial lack is not the only thing that makes it inaccessible. Often being a girl is seen as an immediate barrier. But if you are lucky enough to be given the opportunity to go to school the challenge of your monthly period is a very real issue.
Two years ago, we embarked on our ‘Freedom Project’ making reusable and therefore eco-friendly sanitary items freely available to school girls. Each pack contains 4 pads and 3 pairs of pants (designed to last for two years). Our team go into schools to talk about female health and hygiene and tackle issues such as sexual abuse, underage marriage and to offer counselling and support.
Every year we intentionally encourage more and more girls to go to school and when it came to this year’s ‘Big Give’ campaign we made it a policy that every girl we enable into education will be given ALL they need to keep them there. We know they are ‘SAFE IN SCHOOL – PERIOD.‘
A gift of £5 will provide a young lady with all she needs to keep her in school. It will mean she doesn’t have to worry about “accidents” or embarrassment. She doesn’t have to suffer from using inappropriate methods during the time of the month. £5 will buy her some freedom. And the wonderful thing about the “Big Give” is that every gift we receive is then automatically doubled. Instead of helping one girl you can help two. It really is incredibly easy to change someone’s life.
I read this quote by Melissa Berton and she sums it up so simply. “A period should end a sentence. Not a girl’s education.”