OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Reproductive Health and Menstrual Hygiene Management Education and Services to Adolescent Girls in Itombwe.

SAFECO aims to conduct reproductive health education and distribute reusable feminine hygiene kits to adolescent school girls in east Congo.

Photo of Neema Namadamu
49 11

Written by

What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

In Itombwe, an isolated, mountainous area of eastern Congo, child marriage and childbearing destroys life’s potential for thousands of adolescent women. Education is the key to self-determination, and influencing a patriarchal culture that considers reproductive health education and its discussion taboo. Adolescent girls miss 3-5 days of education every month due to a lack of sanitary hygiene products during their menstrual cycle. They fall behind in their studies, drop out of school and consequently end up being married off to older men in exchange for a dowry for the girl’s family, caught in a paradigm of ignorance and cultural slavery. These cultural drivers are a major component in the loss of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

The first unanswered question is the lack of available product and financial capability for adolescent girls and their families to buy a feminine hygiene kit for their monthly periods. The long term armed conflicts in the area have been the cause of household poverty and displacement of many village communities. The second unanswered question deals with the patriarchal culture that is resistant to discussion and or education about women’s reproductive rights.

Explain Your Idea

SAFECO has a women's center in Itombwe. Due to the extreme isolation of the area, and the poverty of its people, there are no menstrual hygiene products available to adolescent girls. Consequently when a girl begins menstruation she also begins to miss days of school each month and eventually falls behind in her studies. The father determines she is now a woman and shops her for a wedding dowry. Adolescent girls are being married at 14-15 years of age. The simple fact that there is no health education or available menstrual products is the cause of the high percentage of dropouts and early marriage for adolescent girls. We partner with a U.S. organization called Days for Girls (Uganda), that has designed a washable, reusable feminine hygiene kit. Three of our Girl Ambassador mentees were instructed in Kampala on how to construct and market the kit. We now make and market the DfG Kits out of our Center in Itombwe. Our Girl Ambassadors program is a mentoring program for university-aged girls, to raise up the next generation of Maman Shujaa, or Hero Women. We train these girls in UNSCR 1325 & 1820, the Congolese Constitution and Family Code regarding women's rights and family planning. The girls go into rural communities and dramatize these principles through skits and literacy training. Our proposal is to combine these two programs to further sensitize the communities about feminine hygiene and women's rights, and distribute the Stay in School kits to girls.

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

1. By acquiring the resources to purchase material and sew washable, reusable feminine hygiene kits to be distributed to adolescent girls on a regular basis, free of charge. 2. By providing in each feminine hygiene kit, literature that addresses the problems, the cause and the solutions regarding women’s rights and sexual education. 3. By supporting and expanding Our Girl Ambassadors program, a mentoring program for university-aged girls, to raise up the next generation of Maman Shujaa, or Hero Women.

How is your idea unique?

Offering a solution for a girl's monthly period and its subsequent effect on school attendance is unique to this area - there are no other solutions and no other organizations working on this problem in this area. Secondly, the fact that we are a women-led organization with women implementers, is unique to this area. SAFECO has the largest NGO presence in the region, and the only office with solar energy and satellite internet. SAFECO is a known women's organization providing women-centric solutions. Having been an accepted presence in this remote locale for years, SAFECO is a known partner to the surrounding communities and organizations in the area.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

The patriarchal culture is heavy in this area. It is oppressive to women and girls. The mothers also can be resistant to change. They have been so indoctrinated to their status as second class citizens, as servants of men and their needs without regard for their own personal needs, that they are sometimes resistant to (present an argument against) spending a few dollars for feminine hygiene products for their daughters.

Who are your end users?

The end users are adolescent girls in the remote area of Itombwe. They are school-aged girls 11-20 years old from poor families in the area. Our target is 4000 girls per year who enroll in Itombwe secondary schools. This implies reproductive health education as well as making and distributing 4000 kits to them. Other beneficiaries include the seamstresses who sew the kits, and the Girl Ambassadors who will be doing the reproductive health rights teaching and training. Also, the mom's of adolescent girls will benefit from the program through community awareness, acceptance, and even support of women and their role in the family model of the area.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Democratic Republic of Congo

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

Itombwe is remote. It is a location that is devoid of any infrastructure whatsoever. There is a road created and maintained by various people through the years, but without any government intervention. It can take 12 hours to 3 days to get to Itombwe from Uvira. It is only barely passable 4 months of the year -the dry season -and it requires a beast of a vehicle to traverse it during the dry season; something like a safari-styled Toyota Land Cruiser, which we have - 2006 model.

What is your organization's name?

SAFECO - Synergie des Associations Feminines du Congo / Synergy of Congolese Women's Associations

Tell us more about you.

My name is Neema Namadamu. I am founder and executive director of SAFECO. I am a polio survivor. I am the first women with a disability from my tribe to graduate from the university. I was chief advisor to DRC's Minister of Gender and Family for five years; until 2007. I then moved from Kinshasa back to Bukavu and worked to help women with disabilities. I founded SAFECO in 2012, renting space in a local cyber café to teach women computer skills and to get them connected online. We now have two Centers; in Bukavu and in Itombwe, both with free laptop training and online connectivity for women. We mentor, we advocate, we teach business skills, we plant trees, we make sani-pad kits, and we just broke ground on an all-girls school.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • Locally/community-led organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • National - expansive reach within 1 country

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

Democratic Republic of Congo/South-Kivu/Itombwe

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: Completed a pilot and am ready / in process of expanding.

Website

www.herowomenrising.org; https://www.facebook.com/herowomenrising/

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

A question we received from the OpenIdeo Experts about how to make the program more sustainable caused us to consider consolidating the project to a particular zone of 25 schools in our area, which would enable us to effectively sensitize and saturate the need for feminine hygiene products among the estimated 608 menstruating adolescent girls in school. We will then be able to monitor and evaluate the long-term impact of the sensitization campaign, coupled with equipping each of the 608 menstruating girls with a feminine hygiene product. Right now, among the 25 schools, there are 328 girls enrolled in Primary 1 (1st grade), but only 20 girls enrolled in Secondary 6 (12th grade); indicating a 94% dropout rate. Equipping every school girl of menstruating age with a feminine hygiene kit will enable us to evaluate the impact of feminine hygiene products on keeping girls in school, their school grades, and their ability to overcome the cultural paradigm of early and forced marriage.

Who will implement this idea?

The project will be monitored out of Bukavu by SAFECO's executive director and program director, and locally by the director of the Itombwe Maman Shujaa Center. The project will be directly managed in Itombwe by the Keep Girls in School program manager (a former Girl Ambassador), who will be managing a team of approximately 10 trained seamstresses, a program marketer, and a troupe of 5 Girl Ambassadors. The director of the Itombwe Center lives at the Center, as well as the Keep Girls in School program manager and a program marketer. The team of 5 girls ambassadors will board at the dedicated Keep Girls in School building with the marketer for the duration of the project. All will be working the project full-time. The part-time seamstresses live in the area surrounding the Center.

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?

The key contributors to our program improvement are always our on-the-ground, implementation team. Their continual evaluation and feedback is paramount to the process. SAFECO is a synergy of Congolese women’s association members, many of which are coming and going to and from the Center each day. This level of participation allows for an abundance of brainstorming between the executive director, the director of programs, and the leaders of the many member organizations. SAFECO has a number of international partners that we have worked with through the years to establish what today are our Girl Ambassadors and Keep Girls in School programs. Whether the idea is brand new, or a change, exploration then feedback from the team on the ground is how things get finally decided.

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?

The challenge that adolescent girls face is the fact that they are only a girl. They carry a stigma of enormous weight and everything about them only adds to the weight they carry. They are to be invisible servants of the household, especially the men. They do the bulk of the chores and care for their younger siblings. If they want to go to school, they are only draining the family budget. Authorities are oblivious and/or ignorant to the needs of girls. When I introduced the Stay in School feminine hygiene kit, one headmaster told me that he had tried to address the high dropout rate by providing lanterns and kerosene oil for the girls, but it didn’t help. He asked, “how did you know?” I answered, “because I am a woman." Women are never consulted, even about women's issues.

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?

Impact: I hope to equip every menstruating girl attending school in a specific zone with a Stay in School kit, so I can measure and evaluate the impact a feminine hygiene solution has long-term on a girl’s school attendance and GPA, as well as her ability to stay in school until graduation, thwarting the cultural paradigm of early and forced marriage. Question: What questions do we need to include in our annual M & E survey to best track and document all the intended outcomes of the project.

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

The beauty of the Amplify process is that smaller NGOs such as ours, have access to design and iteration intelligence from all over the world. We were able to get feedback from around 40 different people on our idea. A number of the comments had questions and suggested different paths, some of which we investigated, but all were food for thought. It is collaborative brainpower one cannot create on their own. Our committee to design, iterate, revise new solutions grew to 45 people overnight.

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

  • More than 2 years

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

  • Under 5 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:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Program/Service Design

49 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Marie Anne
Team

Giving it our all to ensure reproductive health knowledge is well propergated. I'm more than ready for the task.

Photo of Laura Dzhilavian
Team

Nice idea!!!!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Neema Namadamu  and Team,

We’re excited to share feedback and questions with you from a set of experts that are supporting this Challenge.

We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve your idea, whether that’s refining it or adding more context. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process, but all critical information should be in the body of your contribution somewhere.

Some things Experts were excited about:
“Clear description of the need and how solution might address this need. I liked the inclusion of the Girl Ambassador program--which incorporates a mechanism for the solution to spread and become sustainable.”
“The proposed solution is desirable with regards to the practical solution - lasting hygienic solution. The effort to change attitudes and practice is clearly in the best interest of adolescent girls, their protection and health.”

Some questions Experts had were:
1) “Given that the program will be implemented through a network of Girl Ambassadors, and given that the Intombwe community is spread out and hard to access, how might you ensure the Girl Ambassadors are adequately supported over time?”
2) The various parts of this solution have been trialled including in South Kivu. Would love to better understand the unique aspects of this project. For example one area to explore might be is how to make this a sustainable solution, by both driving down cost and working on community influencing, to make this a product people are prepared to invest in?
3) How might this idea evolve to include other kinds of SRH needs (e.g., contraception). How might the hygiene kit evolve to connect girls with SRH services?

Thank you for sharing the important work you are doing.

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit (ideo.to/OZznV4) for inspiration on crafting strong and compelling stories as well as the recorded Office Hour (ideo.to/Gf1Cs6). Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - the last day to make changes to your contribution on the OpenIDEO platform is October 26 at 11:30PM PST.

Have questions? Email us at amplify@ideo.org

We look forward to reading more, and thank you for the important work that you are doing!

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Answering the Experts questions:
1) SAFECO’s Itombwe Center compound is made up of 3 buildings. Besides the main office building, there is a dedicated building for the Keep Girls in School program. The building includes a sewing room, an office, and a boarding room that can house up to 8 young women (4 bunk beds, a small sitting room, a changing area with a very large wardrobe, and a bathroom). The third building houses the kitchen for the Center and is coupled to a multipurpose/dining hall. The Itombwe Center has all facility, including solar energy and satellite internet for reporting and staying in communication. SAFECO has 3 full-time staff living at the Center, a facility director and two program managers; two men and a woman. Some young women working the Keep Girls in School program live at the Center and some in the surrounding villages areas.

As far as distribution and support of the Girl Ambassadors during implementation, we will do as we have been doing for the last two years; use our Toyota Land Cruiser to taxi the team and the material to the various schools that are some distance away, with the team based and housed at the Itombwe Center “Keep Girls in School house” for the duration of the project implementation.

For this project, the Girl Ambassador presentation, performance, and sensitization team will paid for the duration of the project out of the project budget, according to the amount allocated by the budget to support the Girl Ambassador portion of the project.

The Keep Girls in School team is supported through Stay in School kit sales. Each Stay in School kit has a retail value of $8: $5 in cost of material, and $3 to pay seamstresses, marketers and some overhead.

2) The idea of making this program sustainable and particularly one in which the community has some personal investment, is the idea we have actually given the greatest amount of consideration. Up to now, we have only given a relatively few kits away as charity – to orphans and women police officers.

About driving down the cost, we have looked extensively at procuring material from other sources and have learned that not only are we getting a really good price on material from Days for Girls USA, but the quality is also without comparison. The colors would run, especially when wet, in other material we bought, and we didn’t feel the quality would last the 3-year life expectancy that we have with the USA procured material. As well, the PUL (waterproof material) for the panty shield is made in the USA.

About the reason for offering the kits at no cost: This is a specific project with specific project goals and funding. What we are proposing in this Idea is saturating the need of adolescent girls in this immediate area with the feminine hygiene kits, to create a measurable outcome.

The target beneficiaries of the project will be the 608 adolescent girl students of the 25 schools in the surrounding area of the Itombwe Maman Shujaa Center, to create a base of users from which to monitor and evaluate the impact of the kits on two critical issues: school attendance and the individual lives of girls (early and forced marriage). For instance, right now, there are 328 girls enrolled in Primary 1 (1st grade), but only 20 girls enrolled in Secondary 6 (12th grade). If every girl of menstruating age is equipped with a feminine hygiene kit, we would be able to evaluate the impact of adolescent girls having kits on school attendance, school grades, national test scores, etc., as the years go by.

In summary, the unique aspects of the Idea we are proposing are 1) adding the trained Girl Ambassadors into the mix to dramatically elevate the level of community sensitization, 2) creating a pocket group of adolescent girls in the vast region from which to monitor and evaluate the impact of a feminine hygiene solution to stay in school and out of the cultural paradigm of early and forced marriage.

3) It is important to understand that these Stay in School kits used to be taboo to talk about in our area. By simply introducing the kit, we are breaking down barriers for girls and their moms. Sharing a kit with a girl opens up the dialog about what menstruation is about, and how proud they should be that they are women and able to bear the next generation of our society. As well, we introduce conversations about family planning, letting them know point blank that they are able to get pregnant and need to be well aware of this fact. We are able to have a lot of girl on girl conversations on many girls-centric topics.

SAFECO is in partnership with the Congolese government agency, PNMLS, which is the HIV/AIDS prevention agency. They give us cases of condoms and are very supportive of any sensitization work we do in this remote mountainous region – so they can take credit. Adding condoms to the contents of the Stay in School kits for adolescent girls is possible.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Neema Namadamu and team!

An important reminder, Refinement Phase closes this Thursday, October 26 at 11:30pm PST.

We can only consider complete submissions, so please make sure that you have reviewed the Feedback and Refinement Phase Checklists and answered all of the questions on the platform. Note that we added one more multiple choice question to the end of the form.

If you're having trouble figuring out how to edit your idea, please refer to this guidance: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/e/2PACX-1vQUuV2N-wO8Oy8MysMAza3CbKUA1ZcMenollZjPh4FA0fGgIDcVXwWtEe6CLh36_Wik5AypEHixreFH/pub

Best of luck!

Photo of Joyce Lee
Team

Thank you for raising awareness to such a great cause, and educating me on how much impact we can have on something that we have the luxury of calling a “basic need” and that we don’t need to worry about getting (vs other parts of the world.)

Photo of ACISDA AFAR
Team

Hello Neema, you have a great idea. Really, your effort and contribution is great and appreciable. ACISDA would like to ask you as member of our team. Thank you!

Photo of Valerie Mirels
Team

Neema,
Your project is one that must be supported and will give dignity to young women at the most critical time in their lives, as they become young women. As a television executive that programs to women (Oprah, The View, Steve Harvey, etc) we must do our part to educate young women that they have control over their bodies and they must Continue their education so they can be lifelong learners who can change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of all girls. I hope you get the support you need and I am happy to help in any way.

Sincerely,
valerie Schaer Mirels

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Thank you so much Valerie!

Neema

Photo of William
Team

This is a great idea. I have no experience with this, but am wondering what other products you could eventually create/manufacture that young women might ultimately need?

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Hi William, another product that is really needed and wanted, but one I think impossible for us to create/manufacture, is braziers. There are no bras in the area, and as the adolescent girls start to develop, they become the object of unwanted attention, especially in their somewhat see-through white school uniform blouses. Also, dancing is a big part of our culture and without bras, girls become extremely self-conscious about engaging in sport at school, or in our cultural dances. What we have done is to ask for donations of slightly-used or new bras. We have received donations of over 1,000 bras which has been a real boost to the self confidence of the girls who were fortunate to receive them.

Photo of Kayla Jacobs
Team

Hi Neema, I'd love to help you get more bras. Do you have an email that I could contact you on directly?

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

That would be wonderful! Neema@HeroWomenRising.org
Thanks YOU!

Photo of Charles Gardner
Team

The  health and education of women is the most productive investment possible for improving lives in the poorest countries. Studies of the International Monetary Fund prove this without a doubt. Safeco's project has been a huge success elsewhere, and will do it in the Congo too. Please give it a chance! It gives work and leadership experience to adult women, as well as hope and better lives to girls. Charles S. Gardner, Senior Advisor (ret),International Monetary Fund, Washington DC.

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Dear Charles, thank you for your endorsement of this project!

Neema

Photo of Jennifer
Team

Increasing fertility awareness and addressing menstrual hygenine challenges are important. Wonderful to see women led ideas particularly in remote areas of the Congo. Could the program also teach the girls to sew and /or create adolescent-parent opportunities for dialogue around not only menstrual hygenine but also fertility awareness and modern contraception? Ideo’s expertise in human centered design process would greatly strengthen this program and reach an underserved and hard to reach population. Given that the DRC is such a patriarchal society what more could you do to better educate the men?

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Hi Jennifer,
1) We have trained 15 young women to sew. They are part of the team of seamstresses that make the kits and earn an income for doing so.
2) Part of the initiative is community awareness. The Girl Ambassadors not only do presentations at the schools, but also on radio, doing audio skits followed by a sort of roundtable discussion that becomes the talk of the surrounding communities. Radio is number 1 but word of mouth is a close number 2 in the area.
3) Contraception is a tricky subject in the area due to the beliefs in the highly Christianized area. We do provide condoms free of charge as part of another program about HIV/AIDS awareness. That is a much more acceptable way of promoting the use of condoms than to adolescent girls. But we are doing our best to sensitize the entire community about these things.
4) Including men is key to changing the paradigm. First of all, it is impossible to hold any meeting without men being present. They will always come to at least observe. All school headmasters in the area are men. Most teachers are men. All authorities and pastors are men. Men will be present and will be hearing and sharing about what is conveyed. Secondly, men are interested to be involved. Mostly they are looking for a personal benefit, but they are often coming to our Center in Itombwe to learn more about what we are doing and to talk with me, a woman that they have known since childhood who was handicapped (polio), who because of my education, went on to serve at the highest level of our government, speaks six languages, and as a daughter of my people, am now sowing my gained capacity back into the community of my birth. The message is, this is the result of educating just one girl.

Photo of Sujit Ghosh
Team

Hi Neema, you are indeed inspiring! A quick question. Would 4000 kits suffice for 4000 girls in a year? Does each kit have a shelf life of 12+ cycles? You may want to expand on the numbers. I anticipate you might need more than 4000 kits a year? Best wishes.

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Hi Sujit, the Stay in School kits each come with two pair of panties (the girls and the mom's in the area typically don't have panties), two fabric, PUL-lined panty shields, 8 pads that can be doubled up for heavy-flow times, a plastic bag for storing and later washing soiled pads, and a school-type book bag for carrying the kit. The kits are constructed of high-quality U.S. cotton, flannel, and PUL, and are made to last for 3 years of use. Thank you for your support and your question. Best to you, Neema

Photo of Clare Wheelock
Team

This idea is brilliant in its simplicity. Such an important issue being resolved in a low cost effective way. This could lead to better lives for women for generations.

Photo of Elizabeth Bobbitt
Team

This is an amazing project! To think that so many young girls are hindered educationally due to their cycle is both heartbreaking and unproductive. The fact that these kits are washable and reusable is so smart and will make such a powerful difference.

Photo of Kayla Jacobs
Team

Truly amazing work and I hope to see this application succeed. How could it not matter to give girls dignity every day of the month!!!!!!

Photo of Bruce Belt
Team

No need to even discuss this, make it happen........now! Where do I send money?

Photo of Karen
Team

Love this! The best ideas are always the simplest. Bottom line, girls who stay in school longer provide a better future for themselves, their families and their countries.

Photo of John Hunt
Team

As a privileged white male in the United States, this would seem a problem long ago resolved. From reading this proposal, it becomes clear that this is as important a factor for young girls as bringing in clean water to advance their future. What a simple investment to change lives of women. I applaud your effort.

Photo of Sheila Couch
Team

Neema, you work so effectively to bring needed advancements to women in your region. You partner with other reputable organizations, leverage great ideas like the sanitary hygiene kits, and build trusted, respected relationships with the local community - men and women. You are uniquely qualified to do this work. What a role model you are to so many, including me.

Photo of claudia
Team

I can remember being 11 and starting my period. The anxiety, discomfort and insecurity associated with that biological occurrence was joined by the natural hormonal ups and downs of puberty. I cannot begin to imagine if I had additionally been faced with missing school and falling behind in my education or being unable to interact in society because of the shame and embarrassment of soiling my clothes during my menstrual flow every single month because I did not have basic sanitary protection. This proposal provides a clear cut solution to that most basic need for sanitary protection, provides work and income for seamstresses to create the kits, and the actual kit itself is a perfect conduit for providing written material about reproductive rights and sexual education to young girls and their families. The fact that the proposal is also utilizing young girls from the community as a part of the solution by enlisting ambassadors to educate their peers is brilliant. We are most open to listening to our peers because we believe that they understand our situation better than anyone. I applaud Neema and SAFECO for providing such a common sense approach to this far reaching proposal.

Photo of Janet
Team

A cost effective grassroots program that can have a direct impact on the emotional, financial, and intellectual lives of oppressed women and girls in the Congo and change the paradigm of the whole community. The model can be easily replicated making it capable of having a much broader impact. Thank you Neema and SAFECO for the life changing work that you are doing. This is a an extraordinary project worthy of support..

Photo of Natalie Lum Freedman
Team

The possibilities are endless by combining these two programs. Using the Girl Ambassadors to communicate and spread the work of the Stay In School Kits will serve to empower young girls and women throughout the region. Change will happen by keeping girls in school and giving women the ability to generate some financial independence. Thank you Neema for the brainstorming!

Photo of Isabel Freer
Team

Very impressed by this initiative. The work Neema Namadamu and SAFECO are doing is not only important, but essential, and deserves to be fully supported.

Photo of Rebecca Jean
Team

This is an incredible program. It works at the most grassroots level, creating change that will ripple out across these young women's networks and exponentially increase its impact over the coming years and generations. I can't imagine a more relevant solution to the topic: as girls 1) learn about their bodies and their cycles, 2) share with one another around these issues, and 3) gain the tools to take control of their destiny as it relates to their biology, they naturally become more confident and gain a greater sense of self-worth. This enables them to become advocates for themselves, their autonomy, and their security, as well as that of their sisters. Thank you Neema and SAFECO!

Photo of Michelle Costa
Team

We need more initiatives like this. Addressing the needs of girls and providing them with an opportunity to obtain an education, has been proven to be an effective way to change communities and the lives of future generations. Thank you Neema for all you are doing to help girls and women in the Congo!

Photo of Jade Frank
Team

This initiative is an excellent human-centered approach to solving a significant problem in a region that is out of reach for most humanitarian solutions. It's a sustainable solution that is driven and lead by the community - by women and girls, for women and girls - creating the supply of a product in much demand and providing entrepreneurial skills for grassroots leaders in the region. Excited to see this work continue and expand!

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Thank you to all who have commented on our idea, expressing your empathy for the challenges that adolescent girls face in this remote area, and your support of our efforts to try and change the current paradigm and the generational future for girls and their mom's in this region. We are so happy to have this work, working alongside our Congolese sisters to make each one the agent of change for their world. In Love, Neema

Photo of Christy Hawkins
Team

This looks like innovative and life-changing work. It is great to see projects like these addressing inequality and helping people affected by conflict.

Photo of Benjamin
Team

This is a wonderful organisation doing important work that deserves support and recognition. The Maman Shujaa sound like dynamic, brave women taking on a difficult and deep seated challenge. Well done Neema and SAFECO for taking this on.

Photo of Hilary
Team

This is a wonderful project, using a very low-tech and low-cost solution to make a big difference in the individual lives of Congolese girls, as well as creating much-needed support for women and girls living within a patriarchal culture! My gratitude goes to Neema Namadamu and all of SAFECO for their essential work.

Photo of Catherine Milne
Team

This is a vital initiative happening not a moment too soon. These young women must to be treated with dignity and deserve access to the equipment they need to live their lives. I applaud SAFECO and hope this can be rolled out wherever the need is, across the world.

Photo of Ceinwen McMillan
Team

This is an impressive initiative, the effects of which will go way beyond the immediate advantage of providing young women with access to sanitary products. It enables girls to remain fully engaged in education so that their chances of advancement are not needlessly hampered. It is a truly liberating programme and is to be applauded. Congratulations, and every encouragement, to SAFECO!

Photo of Jay Ridings
Team

It saddens me that this basic right for young women is missing around Itombwe and is so profoundly affecting the lives of young people.  I really hope that this project gets the support it needs. It seems to me that the provision of a feminine hygiene kit would be a simple but direct and effective way to really help. Good luck!

Photo of Tom Adams
Team

Hi OpenIDEO, this is an extraordinary project led by an inspiring and dedicated team - I highly encourage you to support it.

Photo of Kim Langbecker
Team

Amazing work SAFECO is doing! Without these kinds of initiatives, it will be impossible to experience the full potential of girls around the world. This project is key for two reasons: it's locally supported and run and it is highly adaptable to other communities. Thank you Neema for being a champion for change!

Photo of Anna
Team

It’s unthinkable that young women should be further disadvantaged in life by lack of access to something so fundamental as sanitary products. I am encouraged then that SAFECO has a plan to tackle this problem and offer them my support in their endeavour.

Photo of 0p3n1d30:)x
Team

I'm so glad that this desperately unfair situation is being tackled by SAFECO. I cannot imagine having been held back by something as simple as not having access to sanitary products in my life and it is with great sadness that I read about the girls and women affected. I wish SAFECO every success in righting this wrong.

Photo of katrin
Team

What an important project.

SAFECO will ensure that girls do not drop out of school because of menstruation. With training focused on teaching girls how to construct reusable sanitary pads they will improve lives.

It is unacceptable that girls are being disadvantaged by menstruation in this day at age, and we must not forget the girls and women of Congo.

I urge OpenIDEO to support Neema and her team, through this support you will have an enormous impact. Thank you Neema, for all you do for our sisters in Congo.

Photo of Peter
Team

This is a fantastic idea. And it is real-time and real-world help. Child marriage is just literally destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of girls and young women. And finding ways to keep them in school not only saves them from early death, it begins to educate thousands of young brains. Brains that can help find solutions to the many problems that plague places like Congo. How many fantastic ideas have been lost already! This is a perfect solution when coupled with educational materials that explain to the family, and particularly the father, that an educated daughter is a huge lifelong asset to the family, not a one-time object to be sold and forgotten.

Photo of Giulia Tucci
Team

this is a wonderful idea!
I really like the level of detail of the outlined presentation and the multilateral approach your organization has in addressing women and girls' concerns!
I hope this idea will be included in the following shortlists!

Photo of Neema Namadamu
Team

Thank you for your feedback Giulia. We are so happy to have this work to change the paradigm for girls and their moms in eastern DRC!

Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Gracedanny, Great to have you in the Challenge!

Wanted to send a friendly reminder to have your Idea finalized and published by September 17 at 11:30PM PT! To be considered please make sure you answer all the questions.

And check out our Anatomy of an Amplify Idea visualization: http://ideo.pn/amplify-anatomy + some tips on adding visual goodness to your idea: http://bit.ly/vi-sual