• Courtney Heard

Secular Education 360°: Sanitary Pads

There are so many obstacles that get in the way of education in developing countries. Obstacles that you and I may have never thought of. The more we, at the International Association of Atheists, learn about the programs and initiatives of our partners, the more we realize just how privileged we are in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.. Every day, our eyes are opened wider and we see more and more why little girls and boys all over the world can’t go to school. This is why we are starting to tackle secular education from many directions, a 360° approach. Tuition and school supplies are needed for schooling, but so is proper sleep, adequate food, clothing, and even sanitary pads.

One of the reasons children can’t go to school, you may be surprised to learn, is menstruation.

You see, in places where extreme poverty is the norm and education is a luxury to begin with, teens and pre-teens who menstruate may not have access to the necessary products they need to feel comfortable leaving their home. What we end up finding is that children who are menstruating either stay home from school for a week each month or they drop out altogether.

As many are already aware, access to education for females is already a worldwide struggle. While access to sanitary products affects anyone who menstruates, this problem seriously exacerbates the gender disparity in education in developing nations.

So, when Hank Pellissier of Humanist Global Charity approached us about his sanitary pad project and asked if we could help, we could not say yes fast enough.

Humanist Global Charity has put together this project with the participation of smaller humanist groups throughout Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each Humanist group needs $300 for a sewing machine, fabric and transportation to get these items. There are 22 humanist groups participating in the sanitary pad project but five remain to be funded.

We are asking you to help us raise $1500 as soon as possible so these kids can go to school with confidence.

The 22 humanist groups are spread throughout the province of North Kivu -

in Beni district (see map below)

From Humanist Global Charity:

North Kivu is a stage for war and a place of killers, where soldiers kill innocent people without being punished and the coronavirus pandemic has piled on to issues of infant mortality, Ebola, measles and overall poor living conditions. Long term political instability has led to flashes of military conflict, waves of internally displaced people, and poor access to education and healthcare.
Since 1998, the region has been politically unstable due to vibrant wars and ongoing conflict between government soldiers and rebel groups. In October 2007, the UNHCR warned of an increasing number of internally displaced people in North Kivu, at which time 370,000 were displaced and over 10,000 had already died in the war. Many children who join rebel groups in hope that they can earn a living end up being killed by government soldiers in conflict. Women often face a different kind of atrocity from the war and can be forced into marriage with soldiers while being subjected to sexual violence as well. Many women are exploited and are victims of high gender inequality and injustice.
The critical situation in this province leads to malnutrition and high infant mortality with immense barriers to health services and education.

North Kivu has a population of 6.7 million, most of whom work as farmers, selling their produce at local markets. You can imagine how their income has been affected by the pandemic.

Life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is unpredictable, harsh and can be scary. Education is elusive and as humanists, we all know that education is one of the most impactful ways to cure the problems that ravage this region. Ebola treatment is avoided by residents who rely on superstition and woo. Rebel groups take advantage of poverty for recruitment. Educated populations are less likely to be exploited in any way. Poverty itself takes a beating when sufferers can go to school.

We are atheists. We know the value of education. We need to knock out all the obstacles that get in the way of it.

So, help us today. Help us remove menstruation as an obstacle to education. Help us help groups of kids who menstruate take their own future into their own hands. Help us fund their DIY sanitary pad projects by chipping in to buy a sewing machine for one of the five groups remaining to be funded.

No matter how small your contribution, you are not just changing the lives of these students. You are changing the trajectory of an entire region. You are funding health, prosperity and peace.

Please, give your support now.

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