Patience and Kashish, two high school girls from Kampala, Uganda, are intent on more than just their studies: the duo created a program to combat the stigma surrounding periods that often causes young girls to drop out of school because of shame, pain, or lack of easy-to-use period products.
A study in BioMed Central medical journal found that out of the 40 Ugandan girls surveyed for their study, 28% were absent on at least one of their period days. This absenteeism can then lead to girls falling behind in class and eventually dropping out. In efforts to change this, Patience and Kashish started their program 'Girls for School' in fall 2018, as they were just entering their teenage years. Their work encourages students to shed the period shame, educates people on menstruation, and teaches women within their communities to make reusable pads.
Patience is passionate about educating her male peers about menstruation because she says their negative attitudes can sometimes be the reason girls leave school. “It [menstrual education] helps them to respect the girl child, and it makes them understand that it is not okay to bully girls for being on their periods,” Patience said. ‘Girls for School’ not only improves girl’s confidence, it also provides work for women in the community who make and sell reusable pads. Kashish says it wasn’t always easy being a young female leader. She says Patience and herself had to be “confident in ourselves and courageous in our actions.”
Since 2018, their courage has helped over 300 women and girls in their community and has provided scholarships for more than 40 girls to stay in school. Patience says her “goal is to empower girls and women to be proud of who they are.” The girls, and their program, receive support from the nonprofit organization Global Girls Leading Our World, or Global G.L.O.W. for short, who turned the United Nations observance of International Day of the Girl into the entire month, renaming it OctobHER: International Month of the Girl.
Kashish and Patience are just getting started with ‘Girls for School’ and have big plans for the future. Patience says, “My dream is to become an inspiration to all girls out there and someone any girl can look up to. I also have a goal of starting a foundation that will help girls rejoin school.”
If you’re looking to support the program and their mission, Kashish says, “Women and girls can support us through raising funds for programs like ours that create sanitary wears for girls and women and by supporting education scholarships to reduce illiteracy.”
Watch their G.L.O.W. video here to learn more about Patience and Kashish:
Photos courtesy of Global G.L.O.W., credit: Peter Niwagaba
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Madeleine Janz is a journalism student at the New School. She lives in New York City and enjoys film, as long as film means rewatching the same five rom-com's from the 90's every week. You can follow her @madilonglegs24 on Instagram and Twitter.