In September of 2018 members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany brought a visiting delegation from the “Home of Care and Protection” (HOCAP) of Ghana and two Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches to a MoonBee at the Delmar Presbyterian Church. Afterwards we all had lunch together and spoke about our work. The folks from Ghana had long been working with deprived communities to improve opportunities but they had not heard of the problems associated with lack of access to menstrual supplies. We spoke about our experiences in other parts of Africa and they went back to Ghana to perform a needs assessment to see if indeed this was also a problem in the communities they serve.
What they found didn’t surprise me. In a report to the Westminster Presbyterian Church they stated that, “Menstrual hygiene among young girls between the ages of 10 and above has shown very disturbing cases especially in rural communities. In a recent …menstrual hygiene awareness program in Okushibri and Otchbleku in the Greater Accra Region, and Nyitawuta in the Akatsi North District of the Volta Region, discussions with about 100 girls on menstrual hygiene showed that many young girls are faced with a number of challenges that is spread all over the regions especially in the rural communities.”
They go on to describe similar problems to those we find in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda such as the availability of menstrual pads, but at a price out of reach for many families. In some more rural areas, they found that menstrual products were not available at all, and girls were forced to use unhygienic substitutes (such as old, sometimes dirty cloth). They learned that girls in their service area frequently miss school when having their periods for fear of leaks, and teasing from boys. Furthermore, they found that girls lacked knowledge about this basic function of their bodies, do not understand their cycles and are sometimes shocked upon getting their first period because they did not know what was happening.
After the needs assessment was completed, Barbara Asempa, Executive Director of HOCAP and Catechist of the Tema Redemption Church requested and received funding from Westminster Presbyterian Church for projects in two communities -- Nyitawuta (run by HOCAP Mission) and Okushibri (run by Tema Redemption under the direction of their pastor, Rev. Kwadwo Osei-Bonsu). Westminster paid the printing costs and then sent the MoonCatcher curricula (for both girls and boys) to HOCAP and the Tema Church.
It is so wonderful to learn how this dedicated group of individuals decided to change this situation. They got to work! They started educating girls and boys, as well as parents and teachers, came up with a design for a pad (a bit different from ours as they found that girls in their communities all have underwear), found a seamstress to teach sewing and started making pads.
A year later, here is what we heard from our friend, Barbara Asempa:
“…I must say the menstrual hygiene program (The MoonCatcher Project) really opened our eyes to many other plights of the Nyitawuta community teenage girls. I was in the Nyitawuta community on Monday and returned on Tuesday. I took to the community a seamstress who is teaching the teenage mothers and other teenage school dropouts how to sew, they are beginning with sewing the menstrual hygiene items that the girls need to have. We bought some fabrics, our major challenge was how to get the inner plastic (Tyvek) lining, but we were amazed at what we found. It worked perfectly well. We also bought three sewing machines which we sent to the community on Monday. We had eight teenage girls, four of them have children and one is pregnant all within the ages of 14 to 18 years who had dropped out of school and expressed interest in sewing the first time we had the program. They began the sewing this Monday and you should see the joy in their faces.
On Monday we also met the other teenage girls and showed them the pad holder that had been sewn, they were so happy and eager to have them, but the complete package was not ready so we assured them that since the seamstress was in the community to work with the girls we will get all done and share with them by next month.”
Barbara also sent us a few photos of the work there. It is so gratifying to meet people like this - who learn about a problem and then get to work solving it. We are also grateful to Lois Wilson of Westminster Presbyterian Church for getting us all together last year, and for all that she does to address period poverty around the world. Thanks Lois!