Read about the For Her Campaign and how you can help young girls in Zimbabwe.
Today’s guest post is super special to me for two reasons – (1) It’s written by one of my dear friends. Koko and I met while we were working together on the Carnival Elation. While we haven’t been able to meet up outside of a cruise ship since we worked together, we’ve kept in touch on Facebook. What I love most about our friendship is that we always skip the small talk and end up having such real and honest conversations. At the end of all of our talks, I leave feeling so uplifted and inspired. And (2) the post she has written is about an organization that she’s started on her own, and it’s about something that’s so important for women to hear.
Ladies – think about when you first got your period. Everything about getting your period is super awkward, but in America, we have classes to teach you how your body is going to change and what resources you have to control your period. You learn how to use pads and tampons, and you giggle with your friends about how awkward it is. Sometimes, you may even have a conversation with your mom about it.
I remember when I first got my period, I was 12-years-old, and I was so excited. Our sex ed class was so uncomfortable, but I remember my step-mom having a brief conversation about it with me. I had the smallest inkling of a cramp one day, and the next day, I started my period. I declared that I was a woman, and I told my friends about it. I kept going to school and living my life, excited about what having my period meant.
This is not how it is for people living in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, they don’t have sex ed classes to teach young girls what it means to get their period. Some women don’t even have the resources to regulate their periods. I’m not just talking about pads and tampons; I mean underwear! Even if they sell these things in the store, they’re outrageously priced. Hearing Koko talk about these things honestly shook me. Because of the privilege I experienced of simply having a sex ed class and having access to affordable products, I never stopped to think about the difficulties that girls in other countries face when they start their periods. Some even quit school because of it. Others get diseases because of improper ways of trying to take care of it. It’s disheartening.
I’m going to let Koko take over from here, but if you want to learn more about For Her, click here to visit Koko’s blog or check her out on Instagram. I’ve started collecting some of the major items these young girls need, including reusable tampons and underwear, with plans to send them to Zimbabwe. If you would like to get involved, please email me at email@example.com with the subject line “For Her.”
I looked around and my preferred brands were unavailable, so I settled for the available one and walked to the till. The price was $25 for a pack of pads; $25 and I thought this is ridiculous. In what world is that a fair price? What is more frustrating is I could not simply boycott and leave the shop; I had to buy them. You can’t postpone my period until I find an affordable pack or raise the funds – go time means go time. I left that shop befuddled, frustrated but mostly sad and not because I paid the amount. I am fortunate that I had that amount available. Instead I felt for the young girls in my country who had to face these types of prices every month. A country which has 72% of the population living in extreme poverty, not just poverty – extreme poverty. Where the unemployment rate, for formal employment is at 90%. I began to think about all the other basic daily and monthly household needs, and I wondered how far down sanitary wear falls on that list. It broke my heart because menstruation is not a choice. There is no avoiding it, and there are so many cultural taboos and stigmas that already surrounds this difficult time in a teenager’s life. And now to have to face prices that are so high is really not fair. Yes, life is not fair, but where we can, we need to try and even out the playing field.
I made a few calls after leaving the pharmacy and what I learned was quite alarming. I had just stumbled upon this information, but so many girls had been living this reality for so long. Some had experienced infections that landed them in the hospital because of using unhygienic materials. Who knows what other complications could arise from these infections? And then I thought about hospital bills and and and… I had to hone it in and make a decision to help at least a few with a workable long-term solution. I did not want to simply give them pads that will last a month. I had to find something more durable. I then found reusable sanitary pads and decided that that will be the best way forward. They are supposed to last at least a year. I have had suggestions of the menstrual cup, but I was weary that cultural taboos would get in the way, and I would buy the cups and no one would actually use them. Most girls do not even use tampons.
I am not rich. I am currently part of the 90% that is unemployed. I had no financial solution to this, but I knew I had to do something. I met with a few girls within my community. I heard their stories and began sharing them hoping that someone would reach out and offer a donation. I was quite excited by the people who reached out and ecstatic about those who followed through. I managed to raise money for 112 reusable pads.
It was a relief, but the more I got involved with these girls, I began to realise that even underwear was an issue. I was describing how to attach the pad to a group of girls, and I then discovered that some of them do not even have underwear for the pad. It became apparent that I could not simply stop there as long as people were willing to help. It was my part to mobilise and distribute the pads because it was always For Her.
Thank you so much to Koko for sharing her story. I’m so inspired by how a simple trip to the pharmacy for a box of pads led to starting a campaign for young girls who don’t have access to or know how to use pads, and some don’t even have underwear! There are so many ways to help, including purchasing physical products to be sent to Zimbabwe, monetary donations to be used for the purchase of these products, or even just spreading the word about this campaign to give others the opportunity to help as well.
If you’d like to get involved, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “For Her.”
What’s the story of when you first got your period?