Even though my first period was pretty uneventful — I wasn’t the first in my class to get it, and I had already learned about it in health class, so I had an idea of what to expect — I still remember the embarrassment that came with it. Fifth graders are some of the cruelest individuals on the planet, and words like “gross,” and the retching sounds some of the boys made whenever the subject of periods came up, made the onset of menstruation that much more difficult. As challenging as that was, though, it was nothing compared to the difficulties faced by young girls in some areas of the world who lack access to sanitary products. Fortunately, an organization named Huru International is addressing their needs.
For folks like me, a website called Crankytown, a joint initiative between Canada's National Film Board and a Montreal-based feminist center, would have come in handy. In addition to breaking down the stigma surrounding periods, Crankytown gives girls answers to the questions they are too embarrassed to ask in real life. But I'm pretty sure the only thing that could make periods worse is not having sanitary products to deal with them. This is the case in many parts of the world and is also the reason that Crankytown is now partnering with an organization called Huru International.
This partnership enables people to "sponsor a period" for young women around the world who lack access to sanitary supplies. Huru International has already provided 75,000 girls in Kenya with free, sustainable, and reusable sanitary products, as well as educational pamphlets on sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS prevention ("huru" means "freedom" in Swahili). In fulfilling its mission, Huru also provides jobs in places where poverty is plentiful, such as Kenya, where 40% of working adults earn less than $2 per day.
In providing young women with these kits, Huru is looking to combat the issues of disease, humiliation, and missed days of school. Girls without access to sanitary products will often use unclean or found items in their place, increasing the spread of blood-born pathogens. Girls in Kenya who lack access to pads and tampons also miss school on a regular basis, as they remain confined to their houses for multiple days every month, putting them at risk of falling behind and dropping out. Girls who do try to go to school face humiliation, and often return home.
With their partnership, Huru and Crankytown plan to bring their solution beyond Kenya to other impoverished areas in the world, helping to provide jobs and stop the spread of disease in developing countries across the globe.