A local woman’s initiative to educate women and girls in Africa about menstruation has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Founded in 2013, Femme International is an international non-governmental organization meant to address high-rates of deliberate absenteeism among adolescent girls as a direct result of their menstrual cycles. Executive Director and Co-Founder of Femme International, Sabrina Rubli, says she believes menstruation is critical in any health and gender program in international development. “It is an economic issue, a health issue, a policy issue, an education issue, a logistics issue, an environmental issue and an equality issue”.
Femme International’s Twende Initiative was chosen out of 2,000 applicants as one of the WHO’s top 30 innovators in Africa. The Initiative aims to make reusable menstrual products accessible and affordable to all women. “Our model is similar to the Avon lady method, where local women are trained to go into their communities to deliver workshops and act as sales agents, with a variety of reusable menstrual products available at affordable rates,” Sabrina says. “This will make sure that even women living in very remote areas will have access to high quality, safe products.” The initiative is also providing employment and economic empowerment opportunities to women in East Africa.
When women in the developing world don’t have access to menstrual products, they either put themselves at risk by using unsafe products, or miss out on educational and professional opportunities, Sabrina explains. “The more we talk about menstruation, the more we can break the menstrual taboo!”
Sabrina says it felt amazing to be recognized for their work. Femme International’s Research Manager, Jennifer Rubli, was able to attend the WHO African Health Forum in Cape Verde to present the Twende Initiative to an international audience. “She was even able to meet the President of Cape Verde to explain to him why access to sustainable menstrual products is important to women’s health and well-being,” says Sabrina.
Femme International is also still running their Twaweza Program which are in-school and community-level workshops to teach women and girls about reproductive health. It combines both education and the distribution of reusable menstrual products to ensure that women and girls have the tools they need to eliminate barriers to educational and professional success.
On Sunday May 5, 2019 there will be a concert and afternoon tea from 1 pm-5 pm in support of Femme International at North Grenville District High School in Kemptville. Fiddlehead Soup and NGDHS’s own BigBaNG drummers will be performing alongside a silent auction of items from Tanzania and refreshments. For more information, or to donate, please call Elisabeth Rubli at 613-258-1281. To learn more about Femme International and their work visit www.femmeinternational.org.