Dignity Period's Work in Ethiopia
Imagine getting your first period but having no idea what is happening to you. In northern Ethiopia, many girls experience their first periods with little or no knowledge of menstruation, or worse, misinformation. Their first periods are unexpected and traumatic.
In addition, many don’t have access to menstrual hygiene products. They have to make do with rags instead and hope for the best. This makes girls anxious and stressed about having embarrassing period accidents, especially at school. On average, one in 10 girls in Ethiopia miss school for reasons related to her period. In some rural areas the rate of missed school days may be even higher. Missing school causes girls to fall behind and some may eventually drop out altogether.
Since its founding in 2014, Dignity Period has worked in the Tigray and Afar regions of northern Ethiopia to educate over 336,000 female and male students about menstrual periods to alleviate the fear and remove the stigma often associated with them.
Dignity Period has also distributed over 165,000 menstrual hygiene kits to girls. These kits contain four washable, reusable pads and two pairs of underwear–enough to meet her needs for at least 12 months. No more rags for them! They can go to school without worrying about their periods.
Providing menstrual education and period supplies decreased girls school absences by 24% compared with boys. Menstrual supplies make a notable difference!
From a controlled study conducted by Dignity Period in 15 schools (10 urban and 5 rural) in northern Ethiopia
Period Education for All
False beliefs about menstrual periods are shared by both males and females in northern Ethiopia. Although half the population experiences periods, many people are reluctant to discuss them. For this reason, Dignity Period educates both girls and boys about menstruation.
This education is delivered at school, so students and families can trust what they are taught. Dignity Period also provides take-home materials so that accurate information can be shared with parents, grandparents, and other family members to challenge the misconceptions that surround menstruation.
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Empowering Women with Our Production Partner, the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory
Each reusable pad and pair of underwear distributed by Dignity Period in Ethiopia is produced locally by women for women at the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory.
This woman-owned enterprise was founded by Freweini Mebrahtu in 2009 because she saw that lack of access to quality menstrual hygiene products was interfering with women's education, their self-esteem, and their freedom.
Freweini Mebrahtu wants to empower women to become economically independent, so she employs dozens of women, often straight out of school, and teaches them skills that will help them thrive in the local workforce. She pays them premium wages, provides paid vacations, four months of maternity leave and free on-site daycare when they return to work after having a baby. If Freweini sounds like a hero to you, it’s because she is! In 2019, she was named CNN’s Hero of the Year.
Dignity Period purchases all of the pads and underwear for its Ethiopian program from the Marian Seba Factory at cost. Your donations support this great work.
"In Ethiopia, women wear white on happy days. When we gave them the samples to test the pads for the first time, one woman told me, you allowed us to wear our white clothes everyday, without fear." -Freweini Mebrahtu
Interrupted by Conflict in Tigray
Just after the Covid pandemic disrupted Dignity Period’s work with schools, a regional conflict erupted in this corner of Africa in late 2020. This halted operations at the factory and prevented Dignity Period from working in the region. Tigray was devastated. There were hundreds of thousands of casualties, widespread famine, and millions of citizens displaced from their homes. Infrastructure was destroyed, including schools, health centers, and hospitals. In late 2022, a peace agreement was reached that has kept hostilities from recurring.
By the summer of 2023, the region had stabilized enough to allow the Mariam Seba Factory to resume production and to allow Dignity Period to begin its programs; but the war has greatly increased costs and made securing raw materials more difficult.