“We need underpants!” Ashley blurted out halfway through our long and crowded car ride. We were on our way to the Magogoni Village to educate young girls about women’s health and provide sanitary products through a program called Days For Girls. When we realized we did not have underpants for all of the kits, we went on a scavenger hunt at the next roadside marketplace.
When we finally found a little hut that sold girl’s underpants, it was the funniest thing ever to see our male ASFE director, Tuma, purchasing twenty pairs of pink polka-dot underpants from a ladies’ clothing shop. We shortly arrived at the Magogoni Primary School and were greeted by almost one hundred smiling young girls. The girls were split into two groups: girls 10 and under, and girls 11 and older. The older girls stayed in the classroom with Faudhia (Founder/director of Forward Step Organization - a Tanzanian NGO focused on empowering girls) and me.
I was so excited to help teach these girls with Faudhia. She’s a brilliant 25-year old woman with more drive, strength and passion than any other person I’ve ever met. Although I couldn’t understand most of what she was saying because she was speaking in the common African language of Swahili, Faudhia kept the girls laughing and engaged for over an hour.
When the lesson was over the time came to pass out the sanitary supply kits, I realized we had a dilemma. There were 40 girls in the room and our supply included only twenty kits to give to them. It was disappointing to see half of the girls who had been smiling ear-to-ear turn those smiles upside down when we explained that we couldn’t give kits to everyone. We focused on the oldest girls first and promised to return with more supplies in the future for the rest of the group.
We were already short over one hundred kits for other schools and at the moment we had no way of providing anymore. It was just heartbreaking to know how desperately these girls need sanitary products because they are unable to attend school during their menstruation cycle without them. All I wanted to do was help them and there was nothing I could do – it wasn’t fair that only some of the girls got kits while the others didn’t which made me upset.
However, I decided to look at the situation in a more positive way. I realized that we had made life a little easier for twenty young girls, and they were so happy. Despite not receiving kits, the other girls learned skills about how to take care of themselves and their bodies, which is a priceless lesson. Even if we weren’t able to help everyone we are still making a difference. Faudhia and I will continue to empower girls and make a difference, one lesson and supply kit at a time.