This Organization Engages Boys To Help Fight Stigma Around Menstruation

Students with their handmade sanitary pads | Image courtesy of Art of a Child

May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day and around the world, stigma around menstruating still exists in very real and dangerous ways. One organization that has been working to end the stigma and empower young girls not to feel ashamed of a normal bodily function, is non-profit Global G.L.O.W. Founded in 2012 and operating in 23 countries including the United States, Global G.L.O.W. creates and operates innovative programs to mentor girls to advocate for themselves and make their communities stronger.

Around the world, Global G.L.O.W.’s programs are designed to equip girls with the skills and resources they need to thrive, knowing that when girls are strong, healthy, and educated, they change their communities and transform societies. Through its innovative girl-led model, Global G.L.O.W. works collaboratively with girls and communities to develop unique out-of-school programs addressing the most critical barriers affecting girls globally across the impact areas of self-advocacy, well-being, educational engagement, economic opportunity, and community impact.

Boys learning to make reusable sanitary pads | Image courtesy of Art of a Child

They achieve their goals by partnering with grassroots organizations, key global stakeholders, NGOs, and educational institutions in the regions they work in. Their work in the area of destigmatizing menstrual health has found some key success by engaging men and boys in this fight, as this is an issue that will take the participation of everyone to truly be transformed for the better.

As an example, in Uganda, one of G.L.O.W.’s partners, Art of a Child, has an initiative called Girls for School aimed at teaching girls and women to sew reusable pads from fabric, and they’ve begun to involve boys in the community — teaching them how to make pads and effectively support the girls in their lives. Girls for School has supported more than 300 girls in Uganda, and the program has funded scholarships for more than 40 girls to stay in school.

“The girls sensitized the boys on how normal periods are and encouraged them not to bully girls. Secondly, in some communities, boys too got involved in learning how to make reusable sanitary towels,” said Susan Tusabe, Founder of Art of a Child, a Global G.L.O.W. partner program in Uganda, in a press statement.

Sanitary pads made by students | Image courtesy of Art of a Child

The teen girls participating in this program have seen the impact of boys being part of this conversation.

“Because of our program, the number of girls who have dropped out of school has greatly reduced. [Menstrual education] helps them to respect the girl child, and it makes them understand that it is not okay to bully girls for being on their periods,” said Patience Nakintu, 14-year-old Global G.L.O.W. club participant from Uganda and co-creator of the Girls for School program in an interview with Ms. Magazine.

“I believe that Patience and I have changed the mentality of our families and school members,” said Kashish Khan, 15-year-old Global G.L.O.W. club participant from Uganda and co-creator of the Girls for School program.

Combatting gender bias and corresponding period stigma does not need to be triumphed by women alone — boys can be taught to be impactful allies, as the Girls for School program is showing.

Boys in Uganda learning about reproductive systems | Image courtesy of Art of a Child

To celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021, G.L.O.W. has also recently launched their campaign, “Talk About It. Period.” to address period stigma worldwide with actionable steps people can take to participate in this important movement, no matter where you are based. Taking action can be as simple as having a conversation, posting information via social media or donating to an organization like G.L.O.W. The team has developed a special curriculum that allows club members to learn about commonly held myths and taboos about menstrual cycles as well as artistically express the power and strength that comes with having a period, which you can find here.

Menstruation is a common, normal bodily experience and it is something all of us should be invested in destigmatizing. To learn more about how menstrual stigma still hurts girls around the world, take a look at some of the facts shared by Global G.L.O.W below: