|Jackie, SHE's Advocacy Guru and Senator Nyiramilimo|
Allow me to introduce you to Nyiramilimo Odette (pictured at left), a Rwandan Senator and a member in the East African Legislative Assembly. This leader is special in every way, indicated by her listening skills, professionalism, and the fact that she is a woman of action!
As SHE's Advocacy and Policy Manager, one of my objectives is to instigate national policy makers to pass legislation waiving taxes on menstrual pads to ensure girls and women access to more affordable products.
My colleague Julian and I met this leader with a purpose of raising awareness not only about the value-added taxes on pads, but also to share SHE's mission and vision. Thankfully, she responded that SHE “ is preaching to the converted” because she well understood the issue and how lack of access to pads and education negatively affects girls’ education.
During our meeting, Odette came up with an exciting idea to table a motion in their next parliament forum with the rest of East African parliamentarians that will be held in April that will bring up the issue of lack of affordable sanitary pads, and how the removal of taxes in the region, will greatly benefit girls and women. Once the motion is presented, a report will be given to the Cabinet ministers asking them to implement our ideas into action and policy. This is a great step forward!
In addition to the face time with politicians, SHE is also conducting menstrual hygiene awareness with girls and boys. I joined my colleagues, Nadia, SHE's Health Trainer, and Gerardine, SHE's Junior Business Development Officer, at one of our trainings with 8 schools in the Ngoma district of the Eastern region. Our goals were to break the silence around menstruation and to also enable the head teachers to request for an increase in school's budget for girls’ sanitary pads.
|Jackie, at left, and Gerardine, pouring water on a sanitary pad to demonstrate absorbency to a group of girls|
This was my first time joining my team at one of these trainings, and I was surprised that their level of menstrual health and hygiene is still low. Can you imagine a P6 student ( age 12) girl asking us "Do white people, I mean girls, also get menstruation like African girls?" It was an unbelievable question, but shows the pervasiveness of menstrual taboos, the lack of knowledge that girls are receiving at school, and the cultural silence that still exists at the primary school level.
We really still have a long way to go, so please join us on this journey as part of the SHE Team.
- Jackie, Advocacy and Policy Manager