For many young women in rural Ghana, accessing female hygiene products is a real ch
allenge. Disposable sanitary towels are expensive or unavailable, and traditional methods are ineffective and unhygienic.
But lack of access to menstrual products means girls can lose up to 11 out of 45 school weeks a year.
On top of this, many women and girls in rural communities in the Northern Region of Ghana have very little knowledge about their sexual and reproductive issues. This means that many of them are not able to make well-informed choices about their sexual health, which particularly affects girls going through major development stages of puberty, like menstruation. This leads to them missing school, with the knock-on effect of poor academic performance, low self-esteem and social stigmatisation.
We know that there is nothing that should stop girls accessing an education. And periods are a natural and healthy part of being a woman. But periods can be initially difficult for girls to manage, and lack of access to sanitary products and information about puberty is causing girls to fall behind in their education, and fall into poverty.
Women’s Support and Activist Group (WOSAG) is an NGO based in northern Ghana. The organisation was launched in 2007 to work with women’s groups, local communities, and development partners to improve the quality of life for women. They do this through grassroots capacity building, promoting human rights, and increasing access to sustainably sourced natural resources. WOSAG now focuses on educating women and girls on sexual and reproductive health (SRH).
We started working with WOSAG in 2016 to support them to research this area and develop a more reliable picture of the needs surrounding SRH. With the increased people-power of our volunteers, they were also able to reach more women and come up with innovative ideas for tackling problems around SRH in those communities. We undertook community-based research on menstrual cups and the potential market for reusable sanitary pads. Our volunteers developed menstrual calendar templates and information leaflets about menstruation for distribution in secondary schools. And they ran peer-to-peer education sessions on contraception, menstrual tracking and sexual consent.
We also partnered with global NGO Days for Girls in Ghana to enable women to make reusable sanitary pads. This empowering training meant that not only were these women able to sell the pads and make a profit for themselves, but that the pads were then available to women in the communities as a more economical and environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable pads.
And once a girl has a set of reusable pads, she never needs to miss another day of school because of her natural monthly cycle.