Ashley Lori is the Initiative which aims at ensuring safer Founder of the Pad Up Africa and cheaper means for girls and women to comfortably go through their monthly menstrual period. In this interview with ENE OSANG, she expresses optimism to reach as many women and girls, especially in rural communities, on the Go Green campaign.
What is Pad Up Africa all about?
Pad Up Africa is a menstrual sensitization initiative. We are into sensitizing the adolescent girls in school about menstrual hygiene management and the distribution of reusable sanitary pads to rural dwellers that cannot afford it.
We are actually going green, moving from disposable sanitary pads to re-useable sanitary pads for sustainable development on the menstrual world, mostly for the girls in the community.
With disposable pads, you will use more than four to six pads and it will be thrown away, but with reusable sanitary pads you can wash and reuse for a period of one year. If it were disposable pads it means for every month we go to distribute we will have to repeat distribution but with the reusable it is more sustainable because it can be used for five years.
We are actually preaching green because the reusable is made of pure cotton cloths it is more effective and more absorbing we going to make it affordable and accessible.
How many communities have you reached so far?
We are taking this round the four geo-political zones of the country. We are going to train the women in the communities we visit on how to make the reusable sanitary pads and also empower them with the machines and the material so they can hit the market with it and make ends meet out of what the world has called taboo menstruation.
You are so passionate about this initiative, what inspired you to do this?
This is because from time I have been a very shy person, I used to have low self-esteem especially when I am menstruating because I started menstruation at the age of nine.
At that time, I did not have proper education on menstrual hygiene and management, at the time the only person I could relate it to was my elder brother and all he could get for me was tissue paper and you know the inconveniences you experience when using tissue paper. It does not stick nor absorb properly. It keeps shifting and dividing into two and sometimes it falls off.
I was always a point of laughter in school and during menstruation I wouldn’t want to get up or go to school at all when I was in secondary school.
One day I was passing through a school without fence and I saw some girls with newspaper and blood on their hands I thought someone was injured but when I asked one of them said she is changing her pad, and I asked where the pad is and they showed me a newspaper she used. This took me down memory lane so I asked the girls to follow me so I could get them sanitary pads for them.
Now, that made me uneasy because if I was a kidnapper or someone with bad intension I would have had easy access to them because they freely jumped into my car when I told them I was going to get them sanitary pads.
While conversing with them, I realized that it was an issue faced by many around them, that some of them use nylon, some leaves and others add up ashes on the nylon and create a hole claiming that is more absorbent. Some wear additional dresses to avoid stains and they also leave school because the school is not properly secured and at the end education is not achieved.
What is the effect on the society?
A girl-child goes through all of this and it is not just her problem, at the end, it boils down to creating a better society for the girl child which is our future. A girl, who will become a woman and reproduce to bear kids, procreate.
If she is handled poorly or marginalized it will affect the nation and we are not just talking to the girl child alone we always include the boys to cover her stains.
We try to educate them that this is a natural thing, so they should support them.
If I was stained and a classmate holds my hand while walking out I will stand up tall because that would boost my confidence.
This is a disabled community we actually came to because we just heard their story and we taught we should introduce them to a more organic way of menstruating
You want to “Pad Up Africa” that’s huge, how is this funded?
We intend to go to states and from community to community then hit the whole of Africa, probably go international. We are hitting Africa first because we know that, that’s where the need is.
Funding has always been a problem to laudable projects but we are writing to international donor agencies and also hoping that philanthropists and governments would support and key into this good project.
So, how much have you invested in this programme in Kuchigoro community?
We spent over N170,000 to buy the pads and other miscellaneous expenses. However, what is important is that we are touching the lives of these young girls and women.
Our vision is to educate them on more organic way of menstruating.