By Joyce Nimely (YES 2016-2017, Liberia, hosted by CIEE in Newcastle, TX)
Being an alumna or alumnus of the YES program means focusing on giving back to your home community and serving as a change agent in your country. I saw that there was an issue that was being ignored in Liberia. Through visits to local schools and testimonies from girls in deprived communities, orphanages, and slums areas, I saw how period poverty is still affecting girls and women all around the world, especially in Liberia. Unfortunately, it’s being ignored and people don’t really pay attention to the issue. After thorough research, I learned that menstruation causes serious problems for women and girls both physically and emotionally. It results in mood swings, it is painful, and it causes changes in the body. The heartbreaking and worst part of all is lacking access to sanitary pads when you have your period. Some girls and women in Liberia skip school, work, or even social gatherings to avoid embarrassment. Many girls in Liberia don't have money to buy sanitary products because of its high price. Girls and women often end up using materials like newspapers, tissues, and rags. These materials cause womb cancer, infections, and other diseases that that may hinder pregnancy or childbirth. Girls need to stay in school and feel comfortable with natural processes like menstruation.
Menstruation shouldn't compromise education and no girl should stay out of school because of menstruation. Therefore, I formed a team with some active YES Alumni from Liberia and other people who are interested in ending period poverty in Liberia. We formed our #GiveAPad Campaign in March and then the #FreeThePeriod campaign to raise funds and contribute to ending period poverty. We started off with a door-to-door fundraiser, which is still ongoing. The first donation of pads was done at a local orphanage. It consisted of pads and reusable sanitary pads. With the knowledge I had in making reusable sanitary pads, I realized that it’s an asset that could also be used in the mission to end period poverty because it could serve as an alternative when regular pads aren’t available. A wise man once said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Since I wouldn’t always be available to make pads for these girls, my team and I decided to teach them how to make their own reusable sanitary pads. The project just started but due to the events in our world right now, it had to be put on pause for a while. Nonetheless, we are still mentoring girls on how to make their own sanitary pads virtually since the Internet is available and our mission to end period poverty still continues today!