1,500 Reusable Menstrual Kits Distributed
We began our project here by performing a needs assessment of the village of Kellensoo to find out what the most pressing issues were for this community. One of the most serious issues here was the high rate at which students were dropping out of school. This was due to insufficient school supplies that led to uninterest in students, and a lack of feminine hygiene supplies available to girls that forced them to stay at home and miss a week of school every month while on their periods. The school year when we started this project had begun with 52,000 students enrolled in schools in Kellensoo; by the end of that that year, 13,000 had dropped out, over 50% of whom were girls. The gender imbalance seen in Kellensoo is a common issue in Ethiopian schools; as stated in a country report published by UN Women.
"...gender disparity increases at higher levels in education, where the enrollment of adolescent girls is lower than boys."
We took a three-stage approach to tackling this problem; we started by aiding in the construction of a weatherproofed school library, equipped with books, tables, chairs, and solar panels. This part of the project was initially difficult to fully implement: the school superintendent had locked the library and was not allowing students access to its resources. Working with members of the community, we replaced the superintendent with a town appointed librarian, who opened the library and created a working borrowing system. We implemented the second stage by installing a desktop computer in the library so that the students here could gain a working knowledge of computers and technology.
By 2014, the library was fully functioning, and we were ready to start addressing the lack of access to feminine hygiene supplies. To do this, we partnered with the NGO Days for Girls, an organization which provides rural areas with a secure supply of feminine hygiene products by teaching members of those communities to make their own reusable feminine hygiene kits. In 2014, 760 girls received reusable pad kits and have continued to attend school. These girls formed the Kellensoo Girls’ Club with the goal of making and distributing more kits to neighboring villages so that young girls there can also stay in school. By January of 2016, the number of girls who have received pad kits was nearly 1,000.
NEXT PROJECTED GOAL
Our next step is the construction of the Kellensoo Women’s Center, which will begin within the next few months of 2019. Once construction is complete, we will hire three employees of the Center who will sew kits full-time, in order to provide the community with steady and reliable access to reusable pad kits.