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Sustainable & Empowering Menstrual Health Management for Girls with Disabilities

Femme and YDCP will use innovative, community-based menstrual health education workshops to break down taboos and destructive methods.

Photo of Jennifer Femme International

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What problem does your idea solve?

Menstruation is very under-addressed in WASH & development interventions, resulting in half the population with unmet needs. The taboos, myths, and barriers in Tanzania and discrimination of having a disability and being female, result in unsafe, unhygienic, unconfigured WASH facilities, lack of access/affordability of pads, unhygienic washing/drying/storing practices, lack of knowledge, ongoing health issues, and an atmosphere of shame having a negative effect on the girls’ self image and worth

Explain your idea

Femme staff will work with YDCP to develop needs assessments sensitive to GWD to use as a basis for adapting both workshop curriculum and teaching practices. YDCP staff will receive a ToT so they are aware of the information GWD will be receiving, and be in a position to support them. We will deliver menstrual & SRH (sexual reproductive health) workshops to GWD and their caregivers, providing them with information to make informed, safe, and healthy choices when it comes to menstruation and sex. A reusable method of menstrual management will be distributed to YDCP staff and GWD, as well as their caregivers. Boys will partake in workshops on SRH, menstruation, and gender equality so they are able to support women and girls, understand their own bodies, and make informed choices. Trainings for community leaders and government staff will sensitise and raise awareness of the issues and barriers surrounding menstruation, and their role in tackling those. We will adapt and deliver a ToT for local elder women (Kungwis) who educate all teenage girls in the area on puberty and sex, so they deliver accurate information to younger generations. The above teachings will deliver factual information, break down the myths and taboos that hold women hostage during menstruation, and empower them to be confident in their bodies. Lastly, we will teach GWD to make reusable pads to provide a sustainable method of menstrual management, as well as an ongoing income generator.

Who benefits?

GWD are the direct beneficiaries; caregivers of GWD benefit as well as local elder women who can execute their roles in the community in improved ways, thus positively impacting all local teenage girls. Government health officials will have a greater understanding of menstrual issues and solutions. Reusable pads relieve the financial burden of menstruation, have no environmental impact, and provide a sustainable source of income, thus benefitting families and local environment.

How is your idea unique?

Femme’s curriculum is designed to empower girls to make safe and healthy choices, and feel confident in their bodies. Due to expertise in disability, we are able to deliver the training in contextually suitable ways that are easy to understand for girls with intellectual disabilities. As YDCP is well known and established, it has good relationships with surrounding communities and key people such as Kungwis, who currently educate all girls in the region about menstruation in traditional and destructive ways. Men and boys will be included as tackling myths and creating a supportive community environment that fosters gender equality requires the participation of everyone. GWD will be taught to manufacture reusable pads both as a long-term sustainable menstrual absorbent and income-generation. We take an holistic, grassroots, community-based approach to tackling an issue that disproportionately affects disadvantaged women and girls.

Tell us more about you

Femme International uses interactive workshops to teach menstrual and reproductive health, and distribute a reusable menstrual product. YDCP is a non-profit organisation based in Tanga, Tanzania that empowers youth & children with disabilities as well as their caretakers to access equal rights for C&YWD regarding health, adequate living standard and education. Femme and YDCP have come together over a common concern and vision to address the challenges of menstrual management in GWD.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Although there is some interest from government side we still need to work more in the involvement of the government stakeholders to grasp the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights of children and youth with disabilities. Adapting data collection tools and curriculum for GWD, and training programme staff to effectively collect data and deliver information What locally-sourced materials are available for reusable pad manufacturing, and will they be absorbent enough, dry quickly, and health-friendly.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Tanzania

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Idea Maturity

  • Early Growth/Roll-out/Scaling: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

In January 2017, Femme conducted a site visit at YDCP, and ran FGDs with GWD, BWD, caregivers, health professionals, and YDCP staff. The information obtained, along with lessons learnt from our pilot in 2016, informed all aspects of the project proposed herein. For this reason, there has been little change during this feedback phase. We felt it was not appropriate to obtain further feedback from YDCP youth and stakeholders, considering we had already done so, and had no new questions to ask. A small market analysis regarding the making and selling of reusable pads was conducted instead, results of which are displayed in the 'Add Attachments' above. Results showed that our final step of making and selling reusable pads seems feasible; despite FGDs saying kangas are used, disposable pads are also common and there is a market for a reusable option. Further modifications to the project will come from needs assessments, which will be used to adapt the curriculum to address specific needs

Who will implement this idea?

The project will be implemented by YDCP and Femme. YDCP is the home base for the project, located in Tanga, and it will involve all centre staff. They will provide the expertise on disabilities, facilities, and community relationships with families, kungwis, and government. Femme is based in Moshi, and will provide the experts on MHM education, including M&E, curriculum development, and teaching, as well as the kits including reusable menstrual pads, and the expertise in sewing them.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

Femme and YDCP developed a partnership based on seeing the urgent need for MHM in GWD. To this end, our partnership is based on the project, and making it work is our focus. Both organisations are community-oriented, and make decisions based on feedback and needs in the communities they serve, as well as best-practice. Femme is evolving to be a more research-based NGO. Large decisions or changes regarding the project would be made by the core team working on this project and application, consisting of Femme's research and education coordinators, YDCP's director and several coordinators, along with a consultant. The proposed idea/change would be thoroughly researched, discussed, piloted or discussed with target stakeholders (if appropriate), and decided upon through group consensus.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

Amplify is about human-centered, bottom-up models that focus on designs that ultimately work for the user. They are willing to take chances on organisations or ideas that traditional funding sources will not go for, such as start-ups, ideas with no data because they are too new, or ideas that aren't funding priorities. Amplify provide a supportive environment that encourages learning from and constant evolution of the idea in order to ensure it will be as effective and appropriate as possible.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

GWD face double discrimination that affects every aspect of their lives - they have a disability, and they are female. They are not considered important or capable, their issues and needs are not considered important, and they come last. The addition of family shame and blaming the mother for a GWD only compounds this. At a systems level, it is again two-fold. Menstruation is not addressed in the SDGs, and indicators don't exist, meaning it is not considered an important issue to tackle. Damaging myths are not seen as such, and (male) policy-makers regularly ignore women's issues. Protections and support systems for people with disabilities either do not exist, or are not functional at the government level, even locally. Across the board, their biggest challenge is having a voice (heard)

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

By 2021 we want to see all women and girls with disabilities who currently or previously attend YDCP empowered to manage their periods in a safe, sustainable, and healthy manner How do we adapt our curriculum and teaching style to ensure all participants (including government and Kungwis) are able to internalise and apply factual information in the place of myths or traditional/religious beliefs? (And how are we going to measure this?)

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 6 months and 1 year

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Between 20-50 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Under $50,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below. @femmeint (Twitter)
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Attachments (3)

Subira's User Experience Map_Video.mp4

Subira, our typical user, and her journey through the project.

Market Analysis Results.pptx

A small market analysis done during the feedback phase to help determine feasibility of making and selling reusable pads.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Steven Revelian

Well done Jenipher and the Femme international team.I think your idea is the best.
All the best.

Photo of Jennifer Femme International

Thank you so much, Steven!

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