Empower Girls in Tanzania with HEAL International
Education through Sanitary Pads: Join ASU’s Effort to Give Girls in Tanzania Better Access to Education
“Girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world: When their rights are recognized, their needs are met, and their voices are heard, they drive positive change in their families, their communities, and the world.” – Kathy Calvin, United Nations Foundation President & CEO
In Africa, only 52% of adult women are literate. In Tanzania, East Africa, less than one-third of girls are graduating from high school.
A group of ASU faculty and students who have been working in Tanzania for 10 years started asking questions about education in Tanzania in response to these staggering statistics. ASU faculty and students who speak Swahili sat with Tanzanian women and girls in their home community to understand why girls are not graduating from elementary and high schools.
The faculty and students asked difficult questions -- questions that are often unspoken because of their sensitive and taboo nature. Through strong community relationships and accepting and open conversations, they found answers and many more questions. It turns out CNN was asking these same questions in Tanzania and came to a similar conclusion:
Girls are not attending school for up to a week per month to avoid menstruation at school, dramatically impacting their academic performance.
Three-quarters of Tanzanian girls say their periods affect their performance in class and the stigma and taboo of menstruation makes it a difficult subject to talk about. In addition, period absenteeism contributes to lower performance on exams or missing exams entirely. Because there is no way to make up final exams in Tanzania, girls are unfairly constrained from being able to continue their education.
This problem has largely been ignored because menstruation and sex are taboo topics in many parts of the country. Children don’t get accurate reproductive health information and frequently cannot talk with their parents about sexual health (see CNN’s story about this issue - https://tinyurl.com/y93j2ad3).
The best solutions are simple.
Providing reusable sanitary pads for girls enables them to attend school during menstruation.
The goal is to raise $12,500 to provide reusable sanitary pads to 500 adolescent girls in Arusha, Tanzania and to conduct a pilot to evaluate the efficacy of the pads and a reproductive health education program. The pilot program will teach girls about sexual and reproductive health and provide them with reusable pads that will last for a year. If the results of the pilot program are positive, the program will be scaled-up and the results will be published. If not, the program will be sunsetted and the results will be published.
What about sustainability?
The pilot project for reusable pads is just the beginning. Women across Africa have begun to innovate approaches to make, sell, and distribute reusable sanitary pads using sustainable materials. They are producing a less expensive sanitary pad than those currently on the market and improving community health and girls’ education at the same time. This business opportunity is one of the best culturally-adapted social ventures we’ve ever heard of.
Who are the partners and how can I get involved?
The ASU faculty and students working on this project started HEAL International, an ASU nonprofit spinoff that maximizes benefit to ASU students and the community. ASU students now live in Tanzania, completing undergraduate and post-graduate research on issues of HIV stigma and community health.
For more information about how to join ASU and HEAL International in Tanzania, search for “Tanzania” in the ASU USAID GDR Scholar Catalog: https://sustainability.asu.edu/global-development-research/catalog/
Or apply for ASU in Tanzania: ASU’s summer study abroad program partnership with HEAL International https://studyabroad.asu.edu/index.cfm?FuseAction=programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=8361
Other partners include the government of Tanzania, the Akeri village council, Umoja Tanzania a maker of certified reusable sanitary pads, and 19 high schools in the Arusha, Tanzania area.
Your donation gives young women living in low-income communities a more equitable chance at education and makes a lasting difference in the lives of ASU students who are growing in leadership through service.
UNESCO Statistics on literacy: https://twitter.com/UNESCOstat/status/643862851250163712
CNN story on sanitary pads: https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/tanzania-period-poverty-asequals-africa-intl/index.html
Statistics for Girls Education in Tanzania: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/22012/9781464805905.pdf