SEX & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
SEX & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
Discussions about sex & reproductive health intersect with women’s liberation in myriad ways globally. From the freedom to exercise bodily autonomy in access to abortion and protection from sexual assault to being able to experience periods with safety and dignity, these are arguably the most fundamental aspects of liberation. SISTAH zine discusses these issues below.
PeriodLink is a small but ambitious youth-led non-profit aiming to keep young women in education by providing them with reusable menstrual items and a thorough sexual education. Last summer, Marina Tricks and Peace Silly founded PeriodLink after launching a fundraiser meant to raise money for reusable menstrual cups that would later be distributed in a handful of rural communities throughout northern Ghana. The fundraiser was a big success, with enough money raised to purchase around fifty cups. A few weeks later, Marina and Peace left for Ghana, where they would subsequently run Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) sessions alongside cup distribution in several different schools.
It was clear that there was an obvious need and demand for cups amongst local women and girls. They also did work with local nonprofits and community led organisations and four-month trip, they were able to speak with over 1500 young women and distribute all of the menstrual cups. The MHM sessions proved very useful to the girls, boys, and teachers that attended the sessions, many of whom had had their views on menstruation influenced by the negative taboos and myths claiming that periods were impure and should be something to be ashamed of. During the conversations held in the sessions, many of the girls said they often felt so embarrassed that they would choose not to go to school while on their period because they felt the need to hide the fact that they had it. The decision to stay home while on their periods was only made stronger by the fact that many of the young women could not afford to buy commercial-level menstrual hygiene items, resorting to thoroughly ineffective home-made alternatives instead (such as tissue or plantain leaves), all of which also carry the potential to trigger serious bacterial infections. Most of the girls that were able to afford menstrual hygiene products reported having to engage in sex-work in order to be able to pay for them. Having never received appropriate sexual education courses, many were not aware that this could lead to unwanted pregnancies.
Eliott de Smedt Day writes about the birth of PeriodLink and its latest project.
Out of their conversations with local activists in Ghana, a second project emerged in collaboration with the Green Africa Youth Organisation (GAYO), this time aiming to provide a more permanent solution to the issue of period poverty. The project, which will be based in the Upper-East Region of Ghana in a village called Kandiga, intends to teach fifteen young women how to make reusable menstrual pads, in an effort to reduce local levels of school absenteeism caused by a lack of access to menstrual hygiene items. The pads will be distributed for free to those living in Kandiga to combat period poverty in the village, and sold in nearby cities in order to generate a source of income for the fifteen working women.
In so doing, the project hopes to provide an alternative, local source of income for the women, many of whom have been plunged into situations of economic precarity as climate change has brought on widespread droughts that have crippled agricultural efforts in the area and forced around 70% of Kandiga’s active population to migrate to urban cities in Southern Ghana in search of better livelihood prospects.
In a further attempt to combat issues of water scarcity in the area, the project aims to raise enough money to allow for the construction of three boreholes, which will serve several different purposes. First of all, the boreholes should allow for the maintenance of proper menstrual hygiene. Considering that the pads being made in the village will be reusable, having access to clean, running water is essential for keeping them clean. Secondly, the boreholes should hopefully help to re-establish farming as a primary source of income by providing farmers with a source of water for their crops. This ought to also help keep children in school for longer as their families would be able to better sustain themselves through farming activities, reducing the need for students to drop out at an early age to go look for work in nearby cities. And lastly, the boreholes will more generally just help make everyday life easier. For instance, some children from the community must wait in queues in the early hours of the morning to get drinkable water for the day. Due to the current lack of boreholes in the area, this process often takes up most of the morning, resulting in children missing significant amounts of school. The provision of these extra boreholes will render access to water so much easier.
PeriodLink will be providing the funds to finance the menstrual pad project and the construction of the boreholes. Once the menstrual pad project is up and running, we will be acting as facilitators to ensure that everything is running smoothly. We will also endeavour to continue running the MHM sessions to continue debunking period-related taboos. GAYO’s previous experience in setting up boreholes means that they will be able to supervise the construction of the following three. They will also be acting as facilitators of the project on the ground, as several of the team members are based in Ghana. If this project is a success, PeriodLink hopes to be able to set up similar projects in other parts of the world including in the UK, where most of the PeriodLink team currently resides.