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THRIVE: Restoring Dignity to Adolescent Girls on the Move One Month at a Time

The THRIVE project builds health, social, and economic assets in adolescent girls through a reusable menstrual pad and related training.

Photo of Conrad Mandsager
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

For adolescent girls growing up in displacement as a result of armed conflict, access to school and hope for a better future can hinge on one item -- a menstrual pad. If the lack of adequate menstrual products were not already dire enough, the most vulnerable girls often do not even possess underwear, rendering any kind of pad, whether disposable or reusable, useless. This extreme deprivation easily forces girls out of school, thereby increasing their marginalization and the likelihood of exploitation. ChildVoice’s THRIVE project provides girls with an innovative, reusable pad that can be used without underwear thereby offering hope for a better future to an entire generation of displaced girls. In addition to providing a reusable pad, THRIVE fulfills a critical part in the adolescent development process by linking the pad to trainings on reproductive education, emotional wellness, and relational health. The project also educates boys to understand the larger societal realities that perpetuate gender inequality. If all these interventions take place early enough, girls can be empowered to stay in school, delay marriage, and pregnancy, and build their health, social, and economic assets, while boys can be empowered to become advocates for girls and women.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We are focusing our pilot on host communities in northern Uganda, refugees coming from South Sudan and displaced in the West Nile region of Uganda, and internally displaced persons and host communities in northeast Nigeria. These conflict or post-conflict areas are where ChildVoice is currently working with large numbers of displaced adolescent girls and boys.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Regardless of whether a girl is on the move or established in a community, it is easy to make the case that every girl needs menstrual hygiene products to thrive as they journey through adolescence on their way towards empowerment and independence. Highlighting this basic need for all girls and our solution creates a bridge between the host community and people living in displacement to create tangible ways to work together in peace to provide stability and hope for a brighter future for all.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

One of the realities of forced displacement is that people on the move will find themselves without an adequate means of support. As a result, most will now be living below the poverty line. At risk for adolescent girls in these situations is the opportunity to attend and remain in school. While many humanitarian organizations work to provide schools, teachers, and educational supplies for displaced children, there is a serious lack of menstrual hygiene products and training for girls who are moving into their adolescent years. Girls may lack a combination of the following: any menstrual hygiene products whatsoever, sufficient amounts of products, or even underwear. As a result, many girls won’t attend school one week out of each month, falling further and further behind their peers. In time, they drop out of school altogether, thus becoming vulnerable for early marriage, pregnancy, and exploitation.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

First, a higher percentage of girls living in displacement, as well as their counterparts in the host communities, will stay in school and complete their education because they will have access to an appropriate menstrual pad. Second, these girls will have a heightened and a more complete understanding of the interactive nature of menstrual hygiene and health with respect to their bodies, psychosocial wholeness, and building healthy relationships. As a result, there will be a reduction in risky behavior, less exploitation, later marriages and pregnancies, and more responsible citizenship. Third, boys with an understanding of menstruation and other cultural practices that marginalize girls and women will be more supportive and responsible for the girls and women in their lives as they mature into manhood. Lastly, the THRIVE pad project will provide economic opportunity to trained local tailors and beneficiaries to make these pads from locally sourced materials.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Denise Stasik, a ChildVoice volunteer, grew up in poverty in the Appalachian region of the US in the 1960s. Her family was not able to afford menstrual products for her during her adolescence. Faced with the embarrassment of going to school without a menstrual pad, her mother came up with a creative solution – a reusable pad that could be changed during the day and washed at night. Experiencing the power of that menstrual solution, Denise began work on a prototype of the pad she hoped might change the lives of girls growing up in poverty anywhere. Over the past 18 years, Denise worked to perfect her pad design and began testing it in places throughout East Africa. During the testing process, she became aware that most girls were not aware of the physiological changes that occur during puberty and she realized that an educational component was necessary to realize the full benefit of her reusable pad design. Unable to scale this project on her own, she reached out to ChildVoice to help.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Uganda is home to more refugees (> 1,300,000) than any other country in Africa and the third most globally. Their refugee policies provide land, the right to work, freedom to move, and access to government health care and primary education. Despite this friendly protection framework, conditions for refugees are difficult, marked by inadequate resources, poor water and sanitation, and food insecurity due to reduced international donor support. Tension also exists between refugees and host communities over land usage, access to employment and government services, and environmental destruction. 1.9 million of the 2.4 million forcibly displaced people of northeast Nigeria are internally displaced persons (IDP). IDP care falls primarily to local and national government with help from NGO partners. Nearly ⅔ of IDPs are living in host communities throughout the region, with the remaining in formal and informal camps. Security remains the primary concern for those living in displacement.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

ChildVoice is leveraging the commonly understood menstrual needs of adolescent girls to bring together the leadership and members of both communities to solve a community-wide problem. ChildVoice hosts an ongoing dialogue between host community leaders and refugee/IDP leaders to create forums for airing concerns and finding solutions. Agreeing on a solution that meets the menstrual needs of both of their adolescent girls has helped to build trust and relationship between the two communities. To better understand the needs of the refugee/IDP population, ChildVoice intentionally recruits staff from this population. For instance, in Uganda, we have five staff and nine community organizers that are currently refugees themselves. We are also beginning to hire staff from our beneficiaries as they reach adulthood. Additionally, we encourage our staff to live in the host communities to better understand the needs and concerns of the host community.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

USA: Churches Rotary Clubs Sewing guilds Uganda: Office of the Prime Minister UNHCR International Rescue Committee, Uganda OxFam Save the Children World Vision International Care International Plan International Red Cross, Uganda Action Against Hunger TPO, Uganda Rotary Club, Arua Rotary Club, Gulu Local tailors, including our beneficiaries Nigeria: UNFPA UNOCHA International Organization for Migration (IOM) Plan International, International Rescue Committee, Nigeria National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Search for Common Ground Rotary Club, Yola Local tailors, including our beneficiaries

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

ChildVoice International

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

ChildVoice’s work in rehabilitating and empowering the most marginalized, war-affected adolescent girls has positioned us to respond directly to challenges in displacement contexts. After over a decade of working with the most at-risk girls through a center-based program and more recently through community-based programs, ChildVoice has witnessed the new sense of hope vulnerable and traumatized girls experience when they receive sustained and comprehensive support in their healing and empowerment process. ChildVoice is committed to implementing solutions which integrate the physical, psychosocial, developmental, and cultural components necessary to bring about long-term impact. As we empower forcibly displaced girls to overcome their vulnerabilities, we committed to developing a project that specifically addresses the menstrual health need as part of a comprehensive approach to build a girl’s psychosocial health, her potential to remain in school, and improve her quality of life.

Website URL:

www.childvoice.org

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

USA

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Newmarket, New Hampshire, USA

2 comments

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Photo of Simon Pestano
Team

Measuring these long-term programs can be a challenge. Interesting pro-refugee / migrant policies of Uganda. Good project.

Photo of Conrad Mandsager
Team

Thanks, Simon. Really appreciate your interest and comment. We certainly understand that measuring and evaluating can be a challenge for long term programs, but we have some experience in this area as we have been operating a center-based program for traumatized adolescent girls in Uganda for the past 12 years. In this program, girls are at the center for 2 years and then we follow them post-residentially for another 3 years when they return home. We have found that this longitudinal commitment is critical for long-term reintegration success.