The Covid-19 outbreak in The Gambia severely impacted access to menstrual hygiene products for girls, particularly in the rural Gambia. The outbreak caused a shortage of pads as well as a steep price increase. The lack of information and services related to menstrual hygiene also left girls and women struggling with managing their periods.
As a way of mitigating these challenges, Girls Talk began a menstrual hygiene sensitisation campaign, as well as distributing self-love kits to girls in The Gambia's rural communities. There were three different flow reusable pads, soap, panties, and other sanitary items in the Self-Love kit. Among the eight communities visited were Kafuta, Somita, Kuloro, Giboroh, Faraba Bantang, Ndemban, Bajana, and Farafenni. As of the time of writing this report, over 300 girls in the rural Gambia have benefitted from this initiative.
In honour of menstrual hygiene day 2022, we reflect on the impact of our self-love kits distributed to girls and how the kits helped them mitigate the challenges of access to sanitary pads during the intense outbreak of COVID-19. Sally Jammeh, a beneficiary from Kuloro Village, describes her experience with the reusable pads as very positive.
"Most of the time, we do not have money to buy regular pads. So when it is time for my period, I don't have to worry because I have the reusable pads, which are very comfortable."
Fatoumatta B Jallow has found the reusable pads to be extremely helpful. She says, "I no longer have to worry about missing school during my period."
"Because the pads can be wrapped, they fit perfectly in my bag and I can bring them to school with me. This allows me to have an extra pad available when I need it."
During pandemics, periods do not stop. This is why the Girls Talk Self Love kits proved crucial to helping girls manage their periods in a dignified manner during those times. "I do not have to worry about buying sanitary pads anymore since you gave me these pads," said Awa Barry from Ndemban Village.
"Since we each received three pads, I always have an extra pad to change, and I have not experienced any side effects since using them."
As long as women and girls have access to sanitary products, they are less likely to resort to unhygienic alternatives and increase their risk of urinary tract infections. Maimuna Jarjue says,
"Some of us wore clothes during our periods when we couldn't afford to buy pads. But today, I go through my period without any worry"
We are committed to intensifying our efforts to ensure women and girls have access to reusable pads and water, sanitary and hygiene facilities in order to manage their periods with dignity and pride this Menstrual Hygiene Day.
Furthermore, in order to eradicate period shaming and stigma in these communities, we would make sure that our distribution of self-love kits runs simultaneously with sensitisation and advocacy programs designed to change behaviours and influence attitudes surrounding menstruation. From all of us at Girls Talk Organisation, we wish you a Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day!