By MIA KLITSAS, founder of Moxie.
I’m sitting on the plane, homeward bound, from what has been one of the most intense and overwhelming yet exciting and happy experiences of my life.
I’ve been in Uganda for the last week with our ‘Pads for Pads’ initiative, whereby we are providing reusable sanitary pads to schoolgirls who otherwise would not have access to them. Many of these girls will miss up to 20% of their school year (or drop-out altogether) as a result.
During my stay, I visited three schools in some of the most remote villages in Uganda, where many girls cannot even access reusable sanitary pads, let alone afford them. Most of the girls I met use old clothes or dirty rags when they have their periods. This, as you can imagine, is not only incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassing because leakage is almost guaranteed, but it’s also unhygienic.
With a chunk of the profits generated through the sales of our Moxie products in Australia over the last few months, we provided 500 girls with a year’s supply of reusable sanitary pads each over the past week – locally made by our partners at AFRIpads – plus menstrual and sexual reproductive education. By the end of the year, that number of reusable sanitary pads will jump from 500 to 6,000. These girls now have the confidence to continue their schooling, uninterrupted by their periods and as they so rightly deserve.
I have met young Ugandan school-girls that want to be doctors, business-women, teachers… each of them want to be SOMETHING.
I did not meet ONE single girl that said she wanted to be ‘nothing’.
I met a girl called Beatrice, who wants to be a nurse. Beatrice is thankful that her father treats her and her brothers equally and pays for her to go to school – many girls aren’t so fortunate as parents will only invest in their sons. Beatrice is 15 years old and is responsible for looking after her younger siblings, sweeping, working on her family’s crops and fetching water every day after school (the walk takes her 40 minutes each way and trust me, a full jerrycan is darn heavy). Whilst softly spoken and incredibly shy, Beatrice was such a delight to chat to – she was witty, intelligent, driven and I could just see the moxie wanting to burst right out of her.
Aside from her family’s poverty, I asked her what her biggest personal challenge was. “Being uncomfortable at school and missing lessons because I have my menstrual period”, she said. “It is hard to learn if I miss lessons. I worry for my exams”. If Beatrice fails or misses her exams, she will have to repeat the year – something her parents cannot afford to pay for, hence it’s likely she will be forced to drop out. To learn that Beatrice and many of her peers, equally as bright, were hindered in realising their dreams because of their period BROKE.MY.HEART. Seriously, that is so messed up. It just further highlighted to me the urgency and importance of what we are doing in bringing reusable sanitary pads to their communities. Such a simple act on our part can really make such a huge difference to a young Ugandan girl like Beatrice.