Why is a Maryland Woman in the U.S. Collecting Sanitary Napkins?

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A young Maryland woman has launched a special drive here in the United States.  Francess Cole, a Sierra Leone native is collecting sanitary napkins for adolescent girls in Sierra Leone who cannot afford to purchase them.

Cole told Global Woman Newsletter, “I remember when I was a young girl in Sierra Leone we could not afford sanitary napkins.”  She continued, “I had to improvise by using cloth and making homemade napkins.”

According to Francess Cole, many girls in Sierra Leone are forced to stay out of school during their menstrual periods because they cannot afford sanitary napkins during that time of the month.  Some girls remain at home up to five days each month or as long as their periods last.  Sierra Leone is listed as one of the poorest countries in the world; therefore their schools cannot afford to hand out sanitary napkins to female students.

“I know what I went through as a girl in Sierra Leone, and I don’t want to see anymore girls stay out of school every month only because of the lack of sanitary napkins, something we take for granted in the US.”  Cole explained.

Cole also survived female genital mutilation at the age of ten in Sierra Leone.  She continues to advocate against the practice, both here in the U.S. and in her country of origin.  She insists that the Sanitary Napkin Drive is closely related to the practice of FGM; since majority of the same adolescent girls who are forced to remain out of school during their monthly periods were once subjected to FGM procedure.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation has teamed up with one of its partners, the National Association for Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs to assist Francess Cole and the FA Cole Foundation in collecting sanitary napkins for her drive.  When asked how many napkins she has set as an annual goal? Cole responded, “Unlimited – I do not want to tag the drive with a number.  Whatever we cannot afford to ship in a year, we will roll it over to the next year’s shipment.  There cannot be too many napkins at this point.”

Ms. Cole has plans to return to Sierra Leone every year to distribute napkins in person and will also hold workshops for young girls and women.

Sierra Leone, Mali and Liberia are the three West African countries that have yet to put a ban on the practice of FGM.

Sanitary Napkins Flyer