When a friend shared an NPR article titled, “The Problem with Free Menstrual Pads” and stating “free menstrual pads may not be enough to help girls with their period,” it worried me just a little bit. After all, I spend a good deal of my time begging people for money for no other reason than to provide free menstrual pads to girls in Uganda. But then I read the article.
I am so proud to be a part of an organization that is finding real solutions to real problems in such a way that an article talking about “problems with free menstrual pads” simply doesn’t apply to us. Not because we don’t worry about those problems, but because we’ve already addressed them. I am so proud to be a part of a board of directors who regularly meets with the real people of Uganda in their real lives to try and come up with real solutions that actually work. The programs we’ve come up with at Fields of Dreams Uganda don’t just work on paper. They work in real life. Not in MY life, way over here in the Western world, where solutions to many of my “needs” are one click away on Amazon.
But in THEIR life, in a struggling but developing nation, where “Amazon” is nothing more to them than a giant river they learn about in geography. Our programs are not designed to make US look good. They are designed to make THEM live good.
The NPR article states that while giving out free pads to girls in these nations is admirable, it is not enough to keep them from missing school. It states that unless girls have "a safe, private place to change their pads,” these girls will still find it difficult to stay in school. This past June, Fields of Dreams Uganda took the first steps in addressing this very concern by installing our very first changing room, a beautiful private building where girls can take care of their hygiene needs. Since the unveiling of that first room, several more have been installed, with plans to continue the process until every single one of our partner schools is covered. That means 2500 girls will not only have the hygiene supplies they need, they’ll have a safe place to use them.
The article also states that issues with water at the schools is another hindrance to these hygiene programs. Our changing rooms address that need as well. With gutters on each roof and water collection tanks installed at each changing room, yet another need has been addressed. Another box checked off. Another girl can stay in school.
Lastly, the article states that unless girls have somewhere to store used pads until they can be washed, they’re not likely to use the pads anyway. This is an understandable problem with a very simple solution, one that has, again, been addressed by the hygiene programs of Fields of Dreams Uganda. Each hygiene kit we hand out not only includes the necessary storage bag for used pads, but soap and a wash basin for washing them, and a drying rack for drying them.
Although we’ll never be able to address all the needs the girls in Uganda face, I’m confident the ones we are addressing, we’re addressing well. I am so proud to be a part of this organization. I am so proud of the programs we’ve implemented. And I am counting the days until I can be back in Uganda to see just how well these programs are working. Won’t you come with me?
And in the meantime, consider donating a hygiene kit. Not just any hygiene kit, but one that comes from an organization that can proudly state that the “problems" association with free menstrual pads don't apply to us.