Every girl in the world deserves education, safety, and dignity.

I don’t care where they live, these are basics every girl should count on.  Yet, in some places of the world, girls simply cannot obtain an education.  It is not because her father demands that she stay at home and work.  It is not because she doesn’t want to receive an education.  It is something more basic – her period.  Yes, this is something we don’t usually think about and much less, talk about.  No one wants to discuss something like a girl’s “time of the month”, yet this basic biological function is what stops girls from becoming educated, time and time again.

Why is this happening?  It is usually because girls and women don’t have access to sanitary pads, either because they aren’t available where they live or they are too expensive for them to purchase.  In the countries where AFCA works, a small package of pads costs more than two days wages.  How in the world can a family afford to purchase such a luxury for their girls?  How does an orphan girl find that kind of money?

Answer: they don’t.

Result: They start missing a few days of school every month and soon, they fall behind.  Most of them eventually get so behind that they drop out.  Or, there are the girls who are so desperate to become educated that they resort to using corn cobs, cow manure, leaves, rocks, newspaper, mattress stuffing, or dirty rags.  This, of course, leads to all sorts of infections and is in no way appropriate for anyone.

We know that if Sara (shown here) graduates from high school, she will likely marry later, she will have less children, she will get better jobs, she has a greater chance at staying HIV free, and the children she has are healthier.  This is not only good for Sara, but also for her community.  Some studies have shown that when we provide a girl with underwear and sanitary pads, her chances of staying in school are 30 to 50 percent higher. That’s pretty remarkable, in my opinion. In fact, AFCA supports a school in rural Uganda and when we introduced feminine products to our offerings to the school, girl matriculation and retention in school sky-rocketed.  The best student in the school this year happens to be a girl and yes, she will rock this world one day.  All because she has the feminine products she needs.

Think of your daughter, your niece, your granddaughter, your friend.  Would you want them to use any of the items our girls have to use, just so they could go to school?  Or, would you like them to drop out of school, giving up a potentially bright future, just because they can’t afford a packet of pads?  Of course not!  If I were writing about your daughter, you know that you’d do something to help the situation, just as I would.  Just like we are doing for the Saras of this world.

AFCA provides feminine hygiene kits to girls in our programs AND we train them on making their own so that if they want to, they can start a small business.  There is nothing quite like watching a girl when she is told that she no longer has to miss school because of her period – the shy smile, the look of hope, the clap of her hands, the standing up and hollering out loud.  Ah, it is good to watch.  Why?  Because, you educate a girl and you change the world.

Today, we invite you to be part of our work, keeping girls infected and/or affected by AIDS in school.  Join our back-to-school campaign today by donating here, share with your friends through email and social media and become a smile-maker, a hope-giver, and a life-changer.