Aussie NFPs empowering women to rise above period poverty

Posted on 30 Apr 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Good Neighbours Australia GNAU Better Life for Girls program

Australian volunteers are helping to alleviate “period poverty” in two of the poorest regions of the world by helping to shatter the stigma of menstruation.

The Good Neighbours Australia (GNAU) Better Life for Girls program aims to improve the menstrual health of students in regional and remote parts of Bangladesh and Vietnam.

The program recognises that the health, education, socio-economic well-being, dignity and human rights of many girls around the world are fundamentally affected by period-related barriers.

In Bangladesh, 41% of girls are reportedly absent from school during their period. An estimated 86% are unable to change or dispose of menstrual products at school because of a lack of safe and private washing facilities.

In response, GNAU has joined forces with the Australian community-based period advocacy organisation Days for Girls Australia (DfGAL) to send up to 5,000 environmentally friendly, washable menstrual kits to girls in need.

The Sydney-based knitting-powered charity Wrap with Love has also stepped forward by agreeing to supply up to 6,000 knitted blankets generously crafted by its Australian volunteers.

Under the Better Life for Girls project, GNAU will also collaborate with local members of its international parent organisation in Bangladesh and Vietnam to conduct menstrual health education in rural and remote schools.

GNAU executive director Sylvia Lee said she hoped the initiative would help deliver access to safe and private sanitation facilities, clean water and waste disposal bins, so girls won’t have to skip up to 50 days of school each year trying to manage their periods at home.

“If we help girls manage their menstrual cycles and also teach them about their reproductive rights, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to stay at school longer, leading to better long-term outcomes,” said Ms Lee.

Along with supporting the overseas efforts of the global Good Neighbours partnership, GNAU helps children and women in Australia hit hard by events such as the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis through distribution of essential items such as health products, grocery vouchers and non-perishable food.

Days for Girls reusable menstrual kits
Reusable menstrual kits supplied by Days for Girls.
“No one should miss school or work due to their period because of a lack of access to menstrual products and safe changing facilities.”
Days for Girls Australia chief operating officer Mary Connelly-Gale.

Days for Girls International strives to increase access to menstrual products and related health information for women around the world.

Days for Girls Australia chief operating officer Mary Connelly-Gale said her organisation was thrilled to collaborate with GNAU to help deliver better menstrual health outcomes for young girls.

“No one should miss school or work due to their period because of a lack of access to menstrual products and safe changing facilities,” said Ms Connelly-Gale.

“This is a basic human right."

Wrap with Love was created in 1992 with the aim of harnessing the knitting and sewing prowess of Australians to create warming wraps to ward off hypothermia in people at risk of extreme cold.

In the years since, it has distributed more than 400,000 wraps to people in need in 75 countries across the world, including Australia.

“Wrap with Love is pleased to be working with GNAU and DfGAL, with our knitted and crocheted wraps lovingly made by volunteers and donated to those in need of warmth worldwide,” said the organisation’s chair, Alexis Lander.

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