Girls Just Wanna Have Pads
A fun video, with a serious message: it is extremely difficult for adolescent girls in Madagascar to practically manage their periods; especially in rural areas. Projet Jeune Leader is an innovative organization trying to improve that.
Projet Jeune Leader is an organization providing education on puberty, reproductive health, and leadership to young adolescents in Madagascar. It was founded in 2013 with the goal of improving the reproductive health and the leadership skills of young adolescents (10 to 15 years old), so as to reduce teenage pregnancy rates, increase school attendance, and improve the reproductive health of this vulnerable age group.
Menstrual health and hygiene have always been a focus of Projet Jeune Leader
To work towards this objective, this youth-led and youth-focused organization runs an innovative program in public middle schools. They teach weekly reproductive health and leadership classes to all students following a year-long curriculum; organize after-school activities (previously inexistent in the Malagasy public schools) and offer one-on-one counseling sessions to students. They also create and staff a ‘Youth Space’ – complete with educational and recreational materials. All activities are coordinated by a team of Youth Educators; young Malagasy adults who work full time in their assigned middle school, over the course of the school year. Over 8,700 middle school students currently benefit from these services.
Menstrual health and hygiene have always been a focus of Projet Jeune Leader. The organization’s research found that only 39% of young female adolescents can correctly explain where their period comes from, and an astonishing one third of female middle school students do not know that they can get pregnant once they start having their period. To respond to this, the Project’s curriculum includes units on menstrual hygiene, reproductive anatomy, and the menstrual cycle. Many of the counseling sessions between the Youth Educators and young adolescent girls revolve around questions regarding the girls’ first period, menstrual hygiene, and menstrual taboos. In addition, the Youth Educators have a stock of synthetic sanitary pads which they give freely to girls who are surprised by their period at school.
It is extremely difficult for rural adolescent girls to practically manage their period
Projet Jeune Leader has already been successful in urban areas, and thanks to a grant from the Segal Family Foundation, the project is now expanding into rural middle schools in the region. Research in these areas pointed out that it is extremely difficult for rural adolescent girls to practically manage their period, and that menstrual taboos are stronger than in urban areas. Girls in rural Madagascar cannot afford synthetic sanitary pads, and instead use old rags. Countless girls expressed their fear that the rag will shift or leak throughout the day, which prevents them from participating in their daily activities: ‘I can’t participate in sports during my period’, explains one worried Malagasy teenager; ‘I just skip school during my period’, explains another.
As Projet Jeune Leader’s Director, Maia Freudenberger, explains: ‘It seemed counterproductive to teach girls in our rural partner middle schools about puberty, their menstrual cycle, and menstrual health, if they then cannot afford safe, reliable, and sanitary menstrual products.’ A new after-school program will allow middle school girls – under the supervision of the Youth Educators and the consultant organization Healthy Girls Madagascar – to sew their own re-usable (washable) sanitary pads. This will be accompanied by a fun new curriculum on menstrual health and hygiene, to promote discussion and break down taboos. In addition, Youth Educators will create a middle school girl’s advisory committee and work together to make school latrines more period-girl friendly.
Check out the organization’s fun promotional video Girls Just Wanna Have Pads, based on Cyndi Lauper’s song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Check their crowdfunding site to learn more: Girlsjustwannahavepads.