Empowering Women and Girls in Tanzania Through Hygiene Education

Young women and girls with disabilities learn about feminine hygiene in Tanzania.

Women and girls in Tanzania are among the most marginalized citizens in sub-Saharan Africa, according to USAID.

“Tanzanian women and girls must have greater access to and control over resources, opportunities, and decision-making power in order to sustainably reduce extreme poverty, build healthy communities, and promote inclusive growth.”

BCC’s partnership with Femme International uses education to empower young women and increase access to reusable menstrual health management products. Last month, Femme International and BCC conducted a needs assessment to learn the opinions, practices, and needs of girls with disabilities regarding menstruation. The value of data in addressing female empowerment cannot be understated; without the ability to pinpoint a gap where a need is unmet, it is impossible to know if we are providing a solution to meet the correct need.

We learned from the needs assessment that more than 90 percent of the young women surveyed did not know what menstruation was before their first period. This information highlights the need for BCC to facilitate these conversations. We also learned that 43 percent of girls surveyed sometimes or always miss out on their regular activities during their periods, and the primary reason given is pain.

With this knowledge, Femme International adjusted the curriculum for the BCC workshops to place greater emphasis on educating staff and caregivers about methods of pain relief and management.

Together, Femme International and BCC created a set of resources aimed specifically at assisting girls with disabilities to manage their periods independently. The result was two workshops for BCC staff, young women, and caregivers, in which everyone could join in a conversation about their bodies that was previously inaccessible and the distribution of reusable feminine hygiene products to all participants.

After the workshops, I spoke with Sister Woinde, BCC’s occupational therapist, and she underscored the novelty of the information presented.

“These parents [who attended the workshop today] will help us to motivate other parents [to come to the workshops],” she said. “Here in Africa, learning concerning menstruation and female organs doesn’t happen, unless you go to medical school. For people like this, it’s amazing. They are now saying, ‘These are normal things.’”

BCC is committed to empowering the women and girls we serve, and ensuring that they can fully exercise all of their human rights. We will continue to take action to address the stigma and double discrimination faced by women and girls with disabilities, and to work step by step towards a world where gender equality is a reality for all.

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