As the echo of the International Women’s Day 2015 fades away, the audible voice of Achola Beatrice, a young South Sudanese woman remains high as is told by her visible determination to ensure that the dignity of women in her village and beyond is secured and sustainably preserved.
Encounter Achola Beatrice, a 15-year-old primary school pupil from Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria State, one of the 10 regional administrative States of South Sudan. Beatrice is revolutionising Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in her Lobure village located in the outskirts of Magwi Township.
She introduced Re-Usable Menstrual Pad (RUMP) production. Her inspiration came from the need to improve the general hygiene of girls and mothers in her village. Achola learnt the skills of RUMPS production from the health club at Magwi Central Primary School. Beatrice started producing RUMPS as a part time activity. After a busy day in school, she and her two girlfriends meet to make reusable sanitary pads. It never occurred to her that her par time activity would one day command a global attention.
“I do this to maintain our personal hygiene and also to keep the skills, we also need to improve our village. I called my two friends Tugulu and Flora Ajango and started to teach them how to make the reusable pads,” narrated Achola when asked about how her initiative began.
Achola recalled how on one evening her mother tasked her to explain why she called in home late from school. Her explanation that it was due to a training session on RUMPS production she was attending triggered her mother’s interest in interrogating her further about the project.
The new skills her daughter had acquired impressed Achola’s mother to a point that she expressed willingness to learn and even suggested to her daughter to consider sharing her skills with other women in the village.
“I told my mother we delayed for training on production of reusable pads. She then asked me to bring the RUMPS material we use at school to teach her and that I should tell our trainers to visit our home as well. My mother then told me that since most women in the village have little income; we could share the initiative of re-usable menstrual pads for them to keep their hygiene” says Achola.
As Achola’s mother implored her to teach as many women and girls in the village as possible, Achola in return posed a challenged to her mother to mobilise the women. “I told my mother to mobilise her peers as I do to the young girl and the women were willing to acquire the skills of RUMPS production,” says the initiator of the village RUMPs group.
This story was published in The Witness Star and phot is by Vincent Buruga