50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable communities in Somalia trained how to make reusable sanitary pads

The closure of stores and public transport, rising costs, and increasing economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 measures are all putting menstrual hygiene supplies out of reach for those in poverty in Somalia. The vulnerable and marginalized communities in Somalia, including refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people (IDPs) living in poverty and in cramped and poor-condition camps, have limited access to basic services. COVID-19 directly impacted the lives of a population already living under the strain of widespread poverty and decades of armed conflict and insecurity. In addition to the COVID-19 impacts, the burden of devastating humanitarian consequences as a result of the prolonged and severe drought conditions in Somalia further accentuated the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and left young women from marginalized communities without access to period products like sanitary pads.

Sanitary pads are expensive and often inaccessible, and some girls resort to managing their periods with pieces of rags or paper, which are often unhygienic and uncomfortable, causing chafing, urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, and other reproductive health problems.

With the support of the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy through ActionAid International on behalf of Feminist Humanitarian Network (FHN), Hawa Feminist Coalition conducted training for 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials.

Training targeted 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups in Garowe, Somalia, and divided the number among the following groups:

  1. 25 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Garowe
  2. 15 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the refugees, particularly Yemeni refugees in Garowe,
  3. 10 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from people with disabilities and host communities in Garowe

The training duration was six days held between March 12 and 20, 2023. The topics and sessions covered during the six-day training are detailed below:

Day 1 – Introduction to the Menstrual Cycle and Hygiene Management: The first day of the training was an introductory day that introduced the 50 trainees to the menstrual cycle, normal and abnormal periods, and the risks associated with poor menstrual hygiene management. Trainees also learned how to identify the different types of menstrual products available on the market.

Day 2 – Understanding Reusable Sanitary Pads: On the second day of the training, the trainees were taught about the different types of reusable sanitary pads available and their different materials. The many ways to create these reusable menstrual products include the method and the materials that can be used, such as leftover quilting cotton, linen, hemp, flannel, fleece, and thicker, more stable knits. The other materials, like using water-proof or water-resistant materials for the bottom of the outer layer of the pad, are perfect for this.

Day 3 – Maintenance and keeping hygienic standards of the pads and awareness on GBV: On the third day of the training, trainees were taught about how to maintain and clean the reusable sanitary pads, including cleaning techniques such as rinsing in cold water, storing in a wetbag or bucket, soaking heavily stained pads in water with salt or stain remover, washing on a decent length wash cycle at no more than 30 °C, and also air drying. The trainer explained the importance of quality control and how to maintain specific standards when producing reusable sanitary pads.

Day 4 and 5 – Trainer’s-led Practical Demonstrations: On the fourth and fifth days of the training, more trainer-led demonstrations were taught, such as practical lessons on how to use needles and threads for the production of reusable sanitary pads. Trainees were taught practically how to thread the needle, and how to control the sewing. The trainer demonstrated how to meet specific guidelines and produce high-quality, reusable sanitary pads. Trainees also watched a video showing the step-by-step process of how to make the reusable sanitary pads, including the materials, sizes, linings, and sewing.

Day 6 – Trainees’-led Practical Sessions: On the last day of the training, trainees were put on a practical exercise where they were tasked with making the pad by themselves, and each trainee was given materials consisting of a printed guidebook, a pen, A4 papers, a ruler, thin cloth, several buttons, cotton fabric (towel), a needle, a scissor, pins, and one thread to use for making the pad by hand. Patterns for various sizes of pads are also provided to produce different sizes. Each trainee was required to produce one pad successfully in 5 hours with the coaching of the trainer.

The six-day training provided for 50 trainees, of which five days were teaching and tutoring and the last day was practical exercise, where trainees were required to practice what they had learned from the training and make their own sanitary pads using the knowledge they acquired during the training, was delivered successfully.

All the trainees gained the necessary knowledge to make pads, fully understood the process and steps taken and the kind of materials used in making the pads. Trainees demonstrated their level of understanding on the last day of the training, when each of them made a pad using the materials provided. The finishing of each trainee was checked carefully to ensure she followed the process taught in the training and the product was usable and perfect. The result shows 41 out of 50 trainees made the pad perfectly, while the remaining 9 made small errors. This shows that 82% of the trainees proved their excellence in making their own menstrual pads using commonly found materials for themselves and their families.

The training ended with success, achieved its objective, and trained 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials.

These vulnerable women and adolescent girls gained invaluable skills, and every one of them successfully produced a pad with their hand, which is proof that they can have access to sustainable sanitary protection and good menstrual hygiene at their fingertips from now on. These vulnerable women and adolescent girls are also capable of helping their communities since they know how to sew and probably have a bunch of fabric scraps hanging around. Each of the training participants received a book translated into Somali, which is a do-it-yourself book or step-by-step guide in the local language, so other women and adolescent girls can learn from it how to design and produce their own reusable menstrual pads using commonly found materials, as well as how to maintain these pads hygienically to maintain their period in a healthy and dignified manner.

This is expected to positively promote accessibility to menstrual hygiene products for vulnerable women and adolescent girls among internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Somalia, who have been affected by the COVID-19 prevention measures.

For more information, click here to download the training report or you can contact the project team through email: info@femsom.org or through our whatsApp: https://wa.me/message/MQOZHDMXX2OOA1.

Mental And Psychological Support Training Provided For 100 100 Young Feminist Activists In Bosaso, Somalia

Women and girls who constitute approximately half of Somalia’s population are subjected to systematic discrimination, exclusion and injustice in all spheres of social, economic and political life. Sexual and gender-based violence including domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse remains widespread throughout Somalia as a result of the continued insecurity, weak rule of law, gender inequality and oppressive cultural practices and norms. Recent spikes in intimate partner violence, rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and abuse have multiplied GBV risks for women and girls with worsening impact on women and girls from the marginalized communities such as internally displaced people and refugees. This is compounded by limited availability of specialized GBV treatment services such as mental psychosocial support and for survivors of gender-based violence in 39 IDPs camps in Bosaso where more than 132,000 are living. This was a major gap for survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to have access to mental and psychological support to take back control of their bodies, sexuality, and lives.

As result of this, with support of Comic Relief USA, Hawa Feminist Coalition trained young feminist activists (including volunteers who are refugees or internally displaced persons) to provide mental and psychological support along medical care for survivors of gender-based violence from marginalized communities such as internally displaced persons and refugees in Bosaso, Somalia.

The main goal was to ensure that survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder have access to mental and psychological support to take back control of their bodies, sexuality, and lives. These include training of 100 young feminist activists (including volunteers who are refugees or internally displaced persons) on mental and psychosocial support skills to expand mental health and psychosocial services to marginalized communities in Bosaso.

This was a highly participatory and interactive training to involve all participants in the discussion centered on simplified and translated materials and to guide the participants on the training progress. The approach was based on problem-based learning using practical exercises, group work, role plays and case studies to keep trainees engaged in the training, which makes them more receptive to the knowledge. This  given the trainer in-session feedback on how well trainees are learning.

Th following subjects relating to the mental health and psychosocial support for GBV survivors were provided for the trainees:-

  1. Principles and guidelines for mental health and psychosocial support for GBV survivors
  2. Psychological First Aid
  3. Developing key mental health and psychosocial support messages for the affected
  4. Advocating for mental health and psychosocial support with key stakeholders
  5. Establishing mental health and psychosocial support activities and identifying and collaborating with key stakeholders in the community
  6. Developing a plan of action, coordination and cooperation with other peers

Hawa Feminist Coalition, the leading organization is entirely led by young feminist all under the age of 35. The project officer and trainees were also young women all under the age of 35. Hawa Feminist Coalition believed and involved its members and target youth members to provide input in the planning, designing and delivering of any activity to give them a sense of ownership and more sustainable into the future. Furthermore, there was a feedback and learning loop that allowed continuous program modification based on their input.

Hawa Feminist Coalition has members from the marginalized communities such as IDPs and refugees who are working to raise awareness against the widespread sexual and gender-based violence including domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, female genital mutilation and early marriage. These members who are tireless working with survivors of gender-based violence in their communities will ensure that survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder have access to mental and psychological support to take back control of their bodies, sexuality, and lives.

This project was led by Ms. Mariam Mohamed Hussein, 21 years old young feminist activist who have been advocating for the safety, equality, justice, rights and dignity of young women and girls in Somalia where they bear an unequal brunt of hardships occasioned by poverty, conflict and clan-based culture which promotes strict male hierarchy and authority. Ms. Hussein is a co-founder of Hawa Feminist Coalition, the first feminist movement in Somalia, and trained 55 young women and girls on mental and psychological skills to support the survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in Somalia. Ms. Hussein was recognized and listed at WOW’s Young Leaders Directory in 2020.

Training for 50 adolescent girls from IDPs on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials held in Bosaso

Gender inequality, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services undermine many girls’ and women’s ability to meet their health and hygiene needs in Somalia. Menstruation is associated with stigma and girls feel embarrassed, often excluding themselves from school and other social activities including generating vital income to support themselves or contribute to their community. Sanitary pads are expensive and often inaccessible and some girls resort to managing their periods with pieces of rags or paper which are often unhygienic and uncomfortable causing chafing, urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, and other reproductive health problems, including fatal toxic shock syndrome and infertility.

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Help Your Sister With Sanitary Pad

The closure of stores and public transport, rising costs and increasing economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 measures are all putting menstrual hygiene supplies out of reach for those in poverty in Somalia. Sanitary pads are expensive and often inaccessible and some girls resort to managing their periods with pieces of rags or paper which are often unhygienic and uncomfortable causing chafing, urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, and other reproductive health problems.

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