In December 2018, Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 came to Johannesburg. This gave us thrills, good music and above all major commitments in the fight against extreme poverty. Among these, American actor, director, producer and screenwriter Tyler Perry has pledged to donate $1 million to support 50 young changemakers across the African continent.
It was the birth of Global Citizen Scholarship Program, powered by BeyGOODwhich offers young people the opportunity to gain experience working on social impact projects through a one-year paid fellowship.
So far, since its launch in 2019, the scholarship program has empowered 35 Africans – including the three of us – between the ages of 21 and 25, with the skills and tools we need to thrive – not just for our time at Global Citizen, but in all future projects. Recipients of this scholarship opportunity, powered by BeyGOOD, are also not shy about giving back to the communities that raised us.
In May this year, the young people who make up the third cohort of the fellowship, hailing from Nigeria and South Africa, embarked on a project – which we named “We Can. Period.” — to raise awareness on the issue of menstrual poverty, so common here in Africa.
As part of the “We Can. period.” project, we held workshops in schools in Lagos and Johannesburg during the week of Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. In line with Global Citizen’s 2022 campaign to Empower Girls NOWthe main objective of our project was to help girls manage their periods better, to provide free hygienic products, in particular greener menstrual products such as reusable sanitary napkins and menstrual cups, and to advocate for better menstrual health education and policy.
Partnerships and Donations
To support the project, we have partnered with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in Nigeria, and the Menstrual Project and Palesa Pads in South Africa to help leverage collective efforts to drive change real and lasting in the communities of Lagos and Johannesburg. The UNFPA Nigeria team provided 100 reusable sanitary napkins and 60 meters of cloth to the girls who participated in the school workshop.
During this time, The Menstrual Project donated more than 200 menstrual products and gave school children a 45-minute workshop based on a comprehensive curriculum that included menstrual poverty, menstrual health and management, and more. Fellows in South Africa collected 100 sanitary pads to donate to schools on the day of the workshop, and the remaining pads will be provided to the school in the coming months. Palesa Pads also did a great interactive demonstration on using reusable cloth pads which the kids absolutely loved.
As a citizen of the world, you know the importance we place on action. So, as part of our project, we have also launched a pan-African quiz that you can participate with us, A period shouldn’t be a complete stop in a girl’s life, find out why. The digital quiz action helps global citizens learn more about the seriousness of menstrual poverty as a global public health, human rights and socio-economic issue.
The Workshops — South Africa and Nigeria
Our first workshop took place on May 25 at the Aiyetoro Grammar School in Lagos, Nigeria, where fellows were joined by Global Citizen Champions of Change, Kiki Mordi and Seyi Oluyole. Speaking to students, Mordi and Oluyole highlighted the importance of good menstrual health management as well as the role boys can play in supporting girls during their periods.
“Boys, remember you’re meant to be a support system for your classmates,” Mordi said during his session. “If you see a girl in trouble, ask how you can help her.”
Oluyole’s session focused on her personal journey and experience with menstrual health. During her session, titled Time of Poverty: My Personal Journey, she spoke of growing up in a rural community in Lagos with limited access to sanitary products.
“I used to be like you,” she said. “If I can get to where I am today, so can you.”
Students also learned how to use reusable sanitary napkins, calculate their menstrual cycle, and advocate for better hygiene facilities in a series of sessions coordinated by BeyGOOD Fellows. At the end of the workshop, hygienic products were distributed to the students, including reusable sanitary pads donated by UNFPA, and a pad bank was set up at the school.
A few days later, in South Africa, our second workshop took place at Yeoville Community School in Johannesburg on May 27th. In addition to schoolchildren and BeyGOOD fellows in South Africa, Global Citizen Champions of Change Penny Lebyane, Amonge Sinxoto and Patricia Kihoro also joined the workshop in person; while champions of change Takkies Dinwiddy and “Menstruation Minister” Candice Chiwa supported the #WeCanPeriod campaign digitally on their social media platforms.
During the workshop, the Menstrual Project asked girls in grades 4 and 5 (ages 10-12) what they had heard about periods. “Bad, embarrassing, disgusting,” were just a few of the girls’ responses. One student said, “I told my dad about my period, and he said it’s something I need to talk to my mom about.
The girls were then told that the negative things they had heard about periods were all part of the larger issue of stigma and taboo around menstruation, which often leads to feelings of shame or embarrassment – especially for young girls and women – when they talk. on their rules. It can also lead to the idea that periods aren’t normal or are dirty, when they’re just part of life.
This provided a great transition for Simphiwe Mahlangu from Palesa Pads, who explained in more detail the use of reusable cloth pads and how to have a healthier relationship with your period and your body. Our Change Champions, Lebyane and Kihoro, then spoke about their own personal experiences with menstruation and why they are advocating to address period poverty.
“When I was advocating for menstrual poverty in Kenya [as a part of the movement #TrekforMandela], they were surprised to learn that it is also a problem in South Africa,” said Lebyane. “And I was like, ‘Yes!’, that’s why I was climbing Kilimanjaro. To create awareness.
Previously published in the 3BL Media newsroom.
Image credit: global citizen