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Menstrual Hygiene Day

May is National Menstrual Hygiene Month. In April 2024, I traveled to the Ivory Coast for an amazing trip. There were several highlights. The most memorable was donating sanitary pads at Dominique Ouattara Modern High School in Korhogo, Côte d'Ivoire.

International Awareness in Africa is essential to me. Every year, I go to different countries and donate supplies, mainly to young girls or women.

According to UNESCO, 1 out of 10 Sub-Saharan girls do not go to school when they are on their period. Unfortunately, girls and women cannot afford sanitary pads. This is not just an issue in Africa but throughout the world.

My journey was guided by Train & Travel with Women of Africa, a non-profit organization that is not just changing lives, but empowering them. It is the first of its kind in Côte d’Ivoire, paving the way for African women to enter in the field of tourism. The impact of their work is not just visible, but inspiring, with over 100 young women already benefiting from the training.

(My tour guide, Benedicte.)

I had the opportunity to speak to Benedicte, founder of Train & Travel, about the pressing issues faced by African girls and women, including menstrual hygiene products in Ivory Coast. She discussed how women are trying to have careers and genital mutilation, that is illegal, is still done underground. When girls and women can't afford to buy sanitary pads, they put used pads or a large piece of fabric in their vagina, which may result in an infection. Girls will miss school for days when they are on their period because of the lack of access to sanitary hygiene products. When they return to school, they fall behind and will most likely drop out of school.

There has been a long stigma and negative perception of girls who menstruate. I can relate to feeling embarrassed, especially when I had menstrual accidents at school. I remember having an accident at school where I was teased and laughed at. I put my head down on the desk and started crying. That led to me being hesitant to go to the blackboard and the last student to leave the classroom to make sure there wasn't blood on my pants. Many girls do not know when they are about to menstruate every month because they feel it needs to be hidden and silent. They must be educated and supported to help them manage their menstrual cycle.

When I arrived at Dominique Ouattara Modern High School, several students and parents were under the tree. I had a purple luggage with over 2,000+ sanitary pads.

It was beautiful to see these beautiful young ladies. The little girls were wearing beautiful dresses, and the high school ladies were wearing uniforms. My travel group brought sanitary pads, books, A4 paper and a lot of candy.

I was asked to speak on behalf of the group African American Travelers. While I was caught off guard, I told the female students that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Menstruation is a sign of celebration and the transition from a beautiful girl to becoming a beautiful woman.

After the brief introduction, the young ladies lined up to get sanitary pads. I didn't realize how many were in need. The line was long. Even though we had over 2,000+ pads, it wasn't enough. Some of the ladies came back for more, which resulted in many of them not getting any, which was unfortunate. Male students were also in line to get sanitary pads for their sisters who were absent.

The young ladies have a hard time finding privacy to tend to their personal needs, which leads to menstrual accidents. There is also a lack of clean water, soap, and disposable trash bins.

Besides donating sanitary pads, I donated 50 dresses to the young girls. Ms. Diane is an ambassador of "Dress A Girl Around The World." She knew I was going to Africa and gave me the dresses that she made. The girls loved them. Thanks to Ms. Diane for blessing the girls with the beautiful dress. For more information about Dress A Girl Around The World, read here.

Passing out the dresses to the girls went smoothly; however, passing out the sanitary pads was a little tense. One of the teachers was upset because the same young ladies were coming back for more sanitary pads. I told her not to be mad. These girls are in need. As I watched the girls trying to get as many sanitary pads as possible, I thought about what I could do to make an impact.

Benedicte told me about a women's shelter that sews reusable cloth pads. Girls and young ladies are provided with a kit that contains 3-4 reusable cloth pads, soap, and a towel that they take with them to school. After use, the pads have to be soaked with soap and water, left out to dry, and placed in a clean area to remain hygienic.

May 28th is National Menstrual Hygiene Day, which highlights good menstrual hygiene practices during a young ladies' period and raises awareness about the importance of access to menstrual products, education, and sanitation facilities.

According to, in 2021, 1 in 4 female students in the U.S. experienced period poverty. Before the pandemic, 4 in 5 teens missed school because they did not have access to period products. All schools and universities should have free feminine products available to students.

Below is a chart of schools by state that provide period products and/or funding. My home state, Illinois, provides period products without funding.

May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day that educate good menstrual hygiene practices, the importance of free access to menstrual products, and sanitation facilities.

I reached out to Dr. Kevin J. Nohelty, Superintendent of Schools, Dolton School District 148, and was able to donate 1,500+ sanitary pads. He was very appreciative and understood the importance to ensure that free feminine products are available to female students, so they don't miss school and fall behind. This will be an ongoing donation that I will provide to the district.

Feminine products are a necessity. They should be free and available at schools, correctional facilities, workplaces, women's shelters, etc. When you go to the women's restroom, there is free toilet paper; there should be free feminine products.

If you are passionate as I am about period poverty, please donate in your hometown. If you would like to make a donation to Train & Travel with Women of Africa that make reusable pads in Africa, go here.

"A period should end in a sentence. Not a girl's education." - Melissa Berton

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