Last summer, Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong took a group of 13 students and four staff members to work with The Peace Centre (TPC), a children's home (and registered UK charity) in southwestern Uganda. This was our fifth annual visit to TPC; however, this time it was different. The activities undertaken during the trip were primarily researched, planned and executed by the students. They were outstanding in their energy and endeavors, which have yielded far-reaching results. Most impressive were two students, Winnie and Kjara, and their dedication to finding a solution for menstrual health inequality.
When investigating the needs in our host Ugandan community, Winnie and Kjara discovered that girls were missing school and falling behind in their studies due to their menstruation. They thought this was unjust and wanted to do something about it. They undertook extensive research and discovered an organization called 'Days for Girls' that makes washable, reusable sanitary pads along with menstruation education. Winnie and Kjara asked the Directors of TPC for their opinion and were very excited to receive the go-ahead.
They thought this was unjust and wanted to do something about it.
Winnie and Kjara created an after-school club to make sanitary pads. They researched the best materials to use and arranged for a professional seamstress to teach them sewing skills. Together, they made prototypes to take to Uganda and share with the directors. Knowing that the children in TPC, while on school holidays, are engaged in a wide variety of vocational training (such as weaving, sewing, tailoring, knitting and agriculture) they proposed to the directors that they could turn their skills to making sustainable, reusable sanitary pads too.
If clubs at both Dulwich and TPC were making these sanitary pads, how many more girls could be gifted a sustainable solution?
Winnie and Kjara also ran workshops at school to raise awareness of the fact that 88 percent of women worldwide do not have access to sanitary products. The workshop helped our students engage with this global issue.
Fast-forward to our time in Uganda, and the girls did an informative wellbeing presentation to all of the females in the children's home, where they talked about health, hygiene and sustainability. They were culturally sensitive in their delivery, having already met with the director of TPC to plan the session and ensure maximum effectiveness of what can be a taboo topic. At the end of our stay, all females living in TPC were gifted a sustainable Days for Girls menstruation gift pack.
As long as we can inspire students like Winnie and Kjara, who are thinking globally, acting locally and taking the initiative to be changemakers, this project will undoubtedly continue. This experience in particular delivers mutually beneficial learning, grounded in the premise of building impactful relationships that have a profound effect on both Dulwich students and our friends in Uganda.
[Images via Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong]
Anthony Reich has been a teacher at Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong for the past 11 years. He is the Director of Global Citizenship and cares deeply about embedding service learning opportunities into students' lives, supporting them to be changemakers in our world.