Improving access to health and hygiene services through local capacity building

This post originally appeared on: GANM Blogs

Partnership, Not Aid: Haiti, Part 2

During our trip to Haiti in 2014, Clinic Manager Miss Berrette explained how the women use “twal” – pieces of cloth that are used during menstruation by rural women. [watch video here] The type of cloth varies but often comes from the market that sells used clothes, sheets, and towels.

We spent time with the women of Ferdil and Savannehenry, where they shared intimate details of their experiences, explaining that conventional sanitary pads are either too expensive or difficult to access, leaving women to use and often reuse these cloths.

In response, we have launched a project in partnership with Haiti Projects, to bring handmade sanitary pads to the women of the region of Fond des Blancs.

There are three things about our Health & Hygiene Project that makes our joint initiative unique:

  • Employing Local Women: Using investments by Mahila, women are employed by our local partner, Haiti Projects. The women work diligently to design and sew culturally appropriate sanitary pads.
  • Education by Local Nurses: Joseph, our nurse, and other clinic staff are employed by the Haiti Projects Health Clinic. They travel up to two hours by motorcycle on rocky, dirt roads to provide mobile clinic services. This allows them to provide hygiene education using our new brochures with illustrations and instructions written in Kryol to help women learn more about their anatomy, why their menstrual cycle happens, and how they can make it more comfortable and productive. Some of them are already waiting when the nurses arrive, and others trickle in up to the time the nurses are packing up to leave.
  • Economic Sustainability: Women employed at the Haiti Projects Artisana also design, sew and embroider gorgeous handcrafted items. Not only are the women earning a fair wage by Haiti Projects, 100% of Mahila’s profits from any sales we make are invested into our joint Health & Hygiene Project.

We have just completed the first year of our program. Thanks to the efforts of the clinic staff and the women and girls who participated in the program, we have begun to gather baseline data that is informing our program and is supplying us with metrics to measure our impact.

While it is promising to see more international attention given to the issue of menstrual health, research is needed to help us not only understand the need, but also the measurable impact of providing for this basic human right. We believe that if the millions of women in need are provided sanitary pads, along with hygiene education, and in addition the ability to produce and sell pads locally, we will see improved education, health and economic outcomes for a future generation of girls. Our intent is to share our results at a grassroots level, and scale up our program in Haiti as well as in other countries where we work.

In our next blog post, we will share the results of our field surveys and how we are using that information to inform our programs.