In traditional Africa, a girl becomes a woman when she starts her menstruation periods. Soiling one’s dress during this period is seen as a taboo. Women and adolescent girls try their best to live a normal life, play and run their usual chores as though no change has happened around them. This is okay under normal circumstances, but not in an emergency setting like the case for refugees. They move abruptly, un-prepared and are forced by circumstances. It is rare that they can afford any sanitary wears and getting their menstrual periods becomes an additional burden. With the painful cramps, backaches and bleeding, many girls keep indoors, while women find it hard to move out to hunt for food for their children. They lack sanitary wears, knickers, soap, among other basics, while many complain, they have no privacy.
Uganda red cross society on 8th August, 2017, gave out dignity kits and other materials worth 40 Million UGX to refugees in Imvepi and Bidi bidi refugee camps in Northern Uganda.This was done in Zone 15 (Bidi-bidi), Villages17 and 18 of Imvepi camps respectively.
Over 1000 women in reproductive age and adolescent girls were targeted and they each received 1 bucket, washable re-usable sanitary towels (2 packs each containing 4 pads), 2 bars of washing soap, 4 tablets of bathing soap, pegs, face towels, 4 knickers, linen materials among others. Harriet Foni 22, became over whelmed. She participated in the Red Cross pre-assessment survey where her voice represented other women and girls before these materials were distributed. This partly informed Red Cross decision to consider giving out these dignity kits to this group of beneficiaries.
“We have really suffered a lot. Sometimes we would fail to go to school or even leave our homes because you can’t have the confidence to freely walk around. When the Red Cross people came here to ask, I freely shared my mind. I am happy they have come and given us these essential stuff to help us the women. The pads are really helpful and this will greatly improve the hygiene and life of the female refugees. Life is now good. I am very excited” Harriet joyfully shared.
Esther Kyokutamba, a Uganda Red Cross volunteer participated in the distribution and witnessed how refugee women ululated upon receiving these items. “The ladies appreciated especially the pads and knickers. This activation is so handy. It comes at a time when women have been in need of these pads to enable them move freely. Pads are expensive and not easy to find in a camp setup yet they are necessary.”
“This is a really good move and we are positive people’s that these little acts of charity touch the lives of these people. We always want to feel we make a difference by giving NFIs that are relevant. These girls and mothers lacked basic materials to enable them go through their menstrual period smoothly. This will boost their confidence tremendously” said John Paul Owiny, URCS Wash Engineer in-charge of hygiene promotion in the refugee settlements – Northern Uganda. Owiny also promised that more of the same will be distributed to other camps and continue supporting women and girls to overcome shame and gain their dignity while in society.
“This is very helpful to us women especially the females between 18 and 30. I am thirty years but I have been struggling. I have had to use ordinary clothes at times as a way of improvising. We lacked soap and sometimes didn’t wash them. One can smell, others soil clothes and keep at home without moving as if we are prisoners. I thank Red Cross for always coming up to educate and support us. They first taught us how to use the pads, be clean and observe our privacy even though we are in camps. I have learnt a lot and I am ready to use the pads. We will wash and hang them to dry, cover with this linen for privacy, use pegs to hang well, generally we have been given the best gifts every woman need in life. Thank you Red Cross.” Said Dianna Duddu,30.