Meet Emily Wilson. She works in Zimbabwe with women's organizations and through this work she has discovered a real need to help people with periods gain access to menstrual supplies. In Emily's words:
"At one meeting, a member of the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe stated that there is a real need to engender humanitarian responses in the country; the example she gave is the fact that many women can no longer afford to buy menstrual products, or else they are just not available in stores. This message was repeated over and over during my visits to different organizations and communities, and so knowing that I was to return to Zimbabwe again in early January, I decided to try and do something about this issue.
I mobilized friends, family members and complete strangers in Ottawa to collect 35 boxes of tampons, 65 packages of maxi pads, and 5 packages of reusable pads. The collection drive was fascinating, as it started up numerous debates and discussions about the most appropriate periods products for women in Zimbabwe (tampons versus pads), issues of health and sustainability (disposable versus reusable), etc. In the end, of course, I took what had been donated, and felt very grateful for all of the support received.
I took a giant suitcase of these items with me to Zimbabwe in January, and personally delivered them to a women's shelter in the city of Bulawayo. I met with some of the young women there as well as members of the Board and people from the local Church who volunteer to help run the shelter. They were all extremely grateful and were very touched by the gesture. After discussing with them what the most appropriate items are for menstruators in Zimbabwe, it became clear that reusable pads are the best - in terms of being culturally appropriate, practical, and sustainable."
This is where Lunapads comes in. Emily contacted us to help her collect enough pads to fill another suitcase (or two, or three!) with reusable cloth pads. She wants to provide a lasting alternative, something beautiful and functional. So please, read about the groups Emily is working with in Zimbabwe and get involved if you can!
The Sexual Rights Centre is the 'umbrella' organization that will oversee delivery of the pads to The Haven, Contact Family Counselling and Ingutsheni Psychiatric Hospital. For the safety of those they help we cannot provide much information about these organizations, but below are a few details.
The Haven is a shelter for abused women and their children, located in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The shelter was established by concerned citizens and professionals from the legal, medical, psychological and education sectors. This committee of professionals started providing shelter in 1999; a home was purchased as a permanent shelter in 2006. The Haven Trust and its networks provide education on women's rights, HIV & AIDS, sexual & reproductive health, and livelihood skills. Members from the Bulawayo community provide food and in-kind support for the shelter, which is how it currently continues to operate.
Contact Family Counseling, also based in Bulawayo, offers free counseling services for families and children in difficult circumstances. The organization focuses on disadvantaged people to empower them to lead healthier and more productive lives. Contact also trains a broad range of health, social service and community workers in systemic counseling techniques. Contact initiated a Child Sexual Abuse Program in 2007, offering services to children and their families affected by sexual abuse. For more information: www.contactfc.org
Ingutsheni Psychiatric Hospital is one of the largest psychiatric facilities in Southern Africa. The hospital provides residential care and outreach support for people living with mental health problems. The hospital currently houses over 300 female patients. The hospital has experienced serious challenges in delivering effective medical resources and information for female patients. The Sexual Rights Centre currently works with the female patients at Ingutsheni and are appealing for sanitary products for the women. Access to sanitary products is a huge problem for Zimbabwean women and particularly women living in institutions.