The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs has collected and donated thousands of sanitary napkins to girls in Sierra Leone.
A young Maryland woman announced the launch of a special drive here in the United States this past summer. Francess Cole, a Sierra Leone native began 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.”
The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. has been around since it was founded in 1935 by the late Emma Odessa Young. She was a realtor from New York City and a member of the New York Club of Business and Professional Women. Their mission is to promote and protect the interests of African American business and professional women; to serve as a bridge for young people seeking to enter business and the professions; to improve the quality of life in the local and global communities; and to foster good fellowship.
When members of a local chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs discovered that Francess Cole was collecting sanitary napkins for girls in Sierra Leone, they decided to help. Little did Francess know that NANBPWC would donate thousands of napkins to her “drive”.
According to 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 the FGM procedure.
When asked how she feels about having so many napkins? Cole responded, “I am excited and so very grateful and thankful to Ms. Janet Ford and the other members of the National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women’s Clubs for their generous donation.” She continued, “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.”
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.
If you would like to donate sanitary napkins for Sierra Leonean girls, please contact Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org and put in the subject line, “Sanitary Napkins”. Thank you.