Women's Health Support in Uganda

My name is Lucy Russell and my friend, Anna Shuford, and I are students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In May 2017, we are living in Gulu, Uganda and are working for Hope Center Uganda (HCU) at a local school. HCU provides after-school classes to 77 students to enhance their English skills, promote creativity, and introduce new technology. 

In addition to teaching English skills, our goal for the trip was to empower local women. We were able to design a lesson that focused on women's reproductive health and menstrual hygiene for the girls. Today (05/17), we gave our first presentation to a group of 33 female students aged 12-17. Anna and I were ecstatic about how well they absorbed the material and about their genuine excitement to learn. We began with an overall description of what menstruation is/how to manage their periods and concluded with a discussion about how important it is to remain abstinent when going through puberty. 

Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the Northern Uganda region, witnesses a huge percentage of girls dropping out of school due to teenage pregnancy. Due to the high poverty rate in this area, vulnerable, young girls end up being misled by boys who convince them that engaging in sex is the only way to get rid of their periods (thus eliminating the need to spend money on sanitary pads). This causes rampant teen pregnancy that forces girls to drop out of school at a young age, destroys their chances of getting jobs, and ultimately prevents them from breaking out of the poverty cycle. By opening up a conversation with the students and addressing the benefits of abstinence in order to prevent teen pregnancy, we broke down the taboo that this issue faces in Gulu. At the end of our lesson, girls excitedly described how they learned that it is essential to be abstinent and stay in school in order to have a bright future. However, we feel that our work is not over.

There is a lack of access to affordable sanitary pads for the women in the community, exacerbating the uncomfortable nature of their menstruation process. We want to provide a year's worth supply of sanitary pads, made by a local non-profit organization called Volunteer Action Network, to all 33 girls we talked to today along with the 70 adult women in the community. The adult women in the community (many of whom are teenage, single mothers with an average of 7 children) requested that we come teach our lesson to them, as they want to become more knowledgable about the issue in the hope of preventing teen pregnancy for their daughters. By providing sanitary pads, we will be supporting the surrounding community by empowering the women and assisting with their struggle to manage the menstrual cycle that all women go through.

What We Need 
$1,000 TOTAL including provision of sanitary pads ($515) and continuation of the powerful women's health lessons ($485) even when we return to the United States.

$515 to supply all 103 women and girls with sanitary pads for the entire year (12 months). 

-$5 = total cost for 12 separate packs of 8 pads each (supports one female for an ENTIRE YEAR) 
-$5 x 103 women = $515 for one year.

$485 for twice a month lessons (for 12 months) about menstruation and other women's issues for the girls and the surrounding community. 

-$150 = transportation for the teacher (Kevin Okumu).
-$305 = writing materials/pens for the year for all girls. 

The Impact
By supporting the local women and girls impacted by HCU in Gulu, the community as a whole is irreversibly strengthened. By targeting this issue, we strive to address one of the many factors that contribute to the poverty cycle that plagues the region. Equipping girls and women with sanitary pads and knowledge about their health allows them to attain a higher education, which leads to jobs that will lift them out of poverty.

We are so grateful for the chance to meet these inspirational girls and women through our work with HCU. We appreciate your help in supporting our goal of creating brighter futures for not only their individual lives, but for the prosperity of the entire community for years to come. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

(To learn more about HCU: https://hopegulu.org/what-we-do/)

Organizer and beneficiary

Lucy Russell
Raleigh, NC
Ella Simmons and Jamie Stuart

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