Not all girls have access to sanitary products. Many can’t afford them. In Sierra Leone girls often have to miss school because of this. I have been working on a project with Restless Development and One Girl Australia in Northern Sierra Leone and Freetown. The project succeeded in sending 76 in 105 out-of-school girls back to school, ensured the retention of 300 school scholarships for girls, supported young girls with skills and funds to establish small-scale businesses, and improved menstrual hygiene management targeting girls in 85 schools nationwide.
Delivering lessons and facilitating events in different communities on menstrual hygiene has increased girls’ knowledge and willingness to use sanitary pads. However there were numerous challenges faced in accessing and affording menstrual products.
Jestina Kellie (pictured), a graduate from the Njala University in Sierra Leone, became a Volunteer with Restless Development Sierra Leone in January 2018. She says:
“Delivering our lessons and other activities with these girls shows they were concerned about addressing their menstrual hygiene needs which was very expensive and mostly not available in their communities, so I said to my peer that we need to do something about this.”
Jestina Kellie and Mohamed P. Barrie (another Restless Development Volunteer Peer Educator) met with other volunteers in their communities and discussed the challenge.
As a way of solving this daunting challenge, they came up with a local pad made from cotton material which can be safely re-used for a long time. They have rolled out the production training to 10 girls in their community as a pilot phase and are now getting good feedback from girls in the community.
Jestina has informed her peers (other Volunteer Peer Educators) in other communities about the pads. They aim to roll out the training and reach over 2,000 girls who are directly and indirectly benefiting from the project.
“To me, this is fulfilling, I feel so much relief especially when we were able to find solutions to menstrual hygiene as one of the world’s most challenging problems facing young girls.”
Menstrual hygiene challenges have seen so many girls drop out of school because they do not have the right access to information or menstrual health products. Volunteers like Jestina are making sure this is no longer the case for girls in Sierra Leone.
Diamond Suma lives up to his name – he is a shining youth activist and Programme Coordinator for Restless Development in Sierra Leone.