Health Programs Update: Tackling a Taboo

Empower Tanzania works to build safe environments for young women to flourish. This includes allowing them the access to resources they need to be successful. Due to a generous donation from the Des Moines-based group named Half the Sky, we have been able to expand our programs in meaningful, exciting, and synergetic ways!

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In Tanzania, it is taboo to discuss menstruation, urinary tract health, and menstrual hygiene. When a girl begins puberty, she often don’t understand what is happening to her body and is unsure of how to handle it properly. Disposable menstrual pads are expensive and, because of the expense, household rags are commonly used instead. These rags are ineffective and often lead to leakage and embarrassment. Frequent school absences and high dropout rates among girls often follow. In hopes of remedying this problem, Empower Tanzania has partnered with Days for Girls, an organization working in 100 countries that provides training on the production of reusable menstrual pads. This is an effective and inexpensive alternative to the more commonly used rags, leaves, moss, or disposable pads.

Days for Girls is a fantastic reusable menstrual pad program that will work in tandem with three of our health programs:

  1. Improving Women’s Health Program (IWHP): Our 33 Community Health Educators (CHEs) reach 17,000 people per month during presentations on various topics.
  2. Community-Hospital Alliance Program (CHAP): Our 30 Maasai Community Health Workers (CHWs) provide basic healthcare and health education to their fellow community members.
  3. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Program: This program is transitioning to economic strengthening knowledge and activities for the 100 women served in order to make sure they are financially knowledgeable.

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Along with our partners, Empower Tanzania has filmed a personal hygiene video that will be used with IWHP and CHAP. We have also filmed videos on money management and banking, so the women we work with will be aided in an understanding of the long-term savings and health potential of the reusable menstrual pad kits.

Furthermore, 100 Gender-Based Violence survivors will be trained to produce the reusable pads, making them available to the public through CHAP and IWHP.  Program directors also envision equipping women to sell other health-related items such as bar and liquid soap, water filters, water purification tablets, mosquito nets, and amaranth seed. Income generated from these sales will go directly to sustaining all three programs.

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Program Manager Efrancia Nzota (pictured above) and four other “champions” were selected to go to Kampala, Uganda earlier this year where they received training from the “Days for Girls University.” The women learned marketing and business practices that will allow them to succeed. They are eager to share what they learned with the dozens of GBV  survivors and initiate new practices into their everyday life!

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With the generous donation Empower Tanzania received from Half the Sky, we were able to purchase the equipment and supplies (die cutters, scissors, roller cutters, seam rippers, cutting boards, snaps, thread, ribbon, flannel, fabric, and sewing machines) to begin this project. We believe results will be swift and positive and that  these programs will help the women of Tanzania successfully regain their independence from puberty, and the unnecessary hardships that accompany it.

As always, while being sensitive to the culture and shrewd in our solutions, we hope to empower Tanzania one day at a time.