Candid Pride is a campaign that was started by Copper Rose Zambia to break the silence on menstruation and sexual-reproductive health among adolescents in schools and Zambian communities. Matters of reproduction are not freely discussed among adolescents but are left to the older generation or postponed until marriage. These practices leave young people with a lack of information and unable to exhibit autonomy over their bodies. Furthermore, there are some traditional practices in most parts of the country which dictate that matters of sexuality and menstruation should not be discussed with one's’ parents but with extended family; such practices create a gap between a young person and their own family because often the people involved do not live in the same home as the adolescent. It is for this reason that Natasha started this campaign, so as to bridge the gap and not only provide girls with the much needed sanitary materials but be a big sister and mentor to many girls out there.
- The goal of the campaign is to educate girls on the importance of good menstrual hygiene practices reducing the number of girls with urinary tract and vaginal infections. These workshops are also used as a platform to address other sexual and reproductive health issues that the pupils may have such as sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, STI’s and contraceptive use.
- To distribute sanitary napkins to those in need and add value to the quality of education by reducing the number of girls missing school by half in the areas of focus.
- To educate boys on women empowerment and what it is to be a real man in a modern world.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
- Natasha’s team managed to reach out to over 1000 adolescent girls and boys and over 500 disposable sanitary napkins were distributed to girls in schools and communities.
- She raised money through door-to-door campaigns around her school campus, through social media and personal contributions from friends and family.
- Radio and TV programs were used to increase awareness about the campaign.
The campaign ensured that boys were not left out so there were separate sessions for boys occurring simultaneously to educate them on the changes going on at puberty so that they did not laugh at or make fun of their female classmates and also for the purpose of instilling respect for women and gender equality at a young age.
The campaign involved sewing sessions in which girls were taught how to sew their own reusable leak-proof sanitary napkins with whatever materials they had at home.
Literature and brochures about sexual health were distributed to ensure long-term learning. These materials promoted sharing of information by the recipients with others who did not attend the workshops.
- Girls in the areas visited are now more aware of their bodies and are more confident. Because of the theme of breaking the silence, some girls opened up about sexual abuse during the sessions and the perpetrators are now being followed up for possible conviction.
- Natasha managed to motivate other young people to join the movement and will this month (January) be training 10 young people on adolescent health for the new target of 5000 sanitary pads distribution to be met in 2016.
- Fundraising was a challenge. The money raised was much less than the budget but that did not stop her from going ahead with the campaign.
- Resistance from the community due to conservative culture and social norms. Menstruation is a taboo topic and considered a women’s issue, getting the girls and boys to talk about it was a big challenge. Much worse getting grown men in management to listen proved to be a challenge.
It was discovered that hustle free sanitary materials give a girl confidence and dignity, which is exactly what she needs to be able to participate actively in class and contribute to the development of her community.
When the distribution of sanitary materials is coupled with awareness sessions, many of the other sexual and reproductive health challenges facing Zambian girls today are addressed as well.
An adolescent that is well informed will be able to exhibit autonomy and be an example to the younger girls around her.
Matters of menstrual hygiene are multifaceted; they border on culture, customs and availability of water and sanitation facilities.
Sanitary materials have the power to change lives!