Menstrual Activism project
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.
December 2012: Our project begins with a needs assessment of the village. Thinks sends representative, Emily Piper, to Kellensoo to direct construction of the library; Piper buys 10 tables, 50 chairs, 2 large bookshelves, and 437 books for the library.
February 2013: Construction of the library is completed.
April 2013: Think sends the first batch of feminine hygiene products to Kellensoo.
October 2013: East Side District Manager, Lacy Lancaster, travels to Ethiopia to bring laptops to the library, but finds that it had been locked and was not being used. Because of this, we delay starting the second phase of our project and bring the laptops back to New York.
August 2014: 760 girls have received feminine hygiene products and the library is now fully operational; the community had hired a full-time librarian to replace the former director of education.
December 2014: Think representatives travel to Ethiopia, bringing back a laptop to install in the library.
January 2016: 1,000 girls have received pad kits. Think Coffee, Nardos Exports, and Days for Girls conduct a week long sexual health and hygiene course with a group of volunteer students in Kellensoo. At this program, the students are taught how to make kits to distribute themselves.
March 2018: Noah and Enrique travel to Ethiopia to distribute kits.
For the past two years, with limited resources and a constant student turn-around, our menstrual kits trainer, Halaka was having difficulty continuing with the project. Sewing machines were not easy to use and she was always training new students on how to make the kits for distribution. There wasn’t enough time and focus on making these kits.
We decided to investigate further and find a new way to get these kits made.
After speaking with community leaders and organizers, we have come up with a new plan to construct a facility within the city center of Kellensoo where full-time staff will spend every day making these kits for all girls enrolled in school and for the daughters of over 1,300 farmers. We are looking at over 3,000 potential kits.
Once we get the approval from the community to construct the new Menstrual Health Center in Kellensoo, construction will begin and kits will be made!