Sanitary kits, education and breaking the stigma. Women’s rights organisation I Matter Initiative is on a mission to end period poverty in Rwanda.
Social norms, lack of sufficient information and poverty are keeping many girls and young women in Rwanda from fully participating in society. Girls who are unable to afford sanitary pads, might miss school or try to use home made products, from rugs or toilet paper, which can lead to bacterial infection and negatively impact their health.
The covid-19 pandemic, which has pushed even more people into poverty, has only exacerbated the problem.
“For struggling families, sanitary products for girls end up at the bottom of an already long list of urgent needs. With schools closed, already vulnerable girls are even more vulnerable due to a lack of information about their bodies,” says Divine Ingabire, executive director of I Matter Initiative.
Last year, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation was able to provide specific support for some of I Matter Initiative’s covid-19 efforts as well as organisational capacity building.
“Thanks to the support from Kvinna till Kvinna, we were able to increase our donation from three pads to also include two soaps and two pairs of underwear. We were able to donate a total of 321 kits at four different schools in three different provinces,” says Divine.
I Matter Initiative was also able to publish more than 400 copies of a booklet about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and menstrual hygiene management (MHM). With the help of the booklet, which they are now distributing in schools, they want to empower girls to be better informed about their bodies and smash various periods myths.
Divine Ingabire was only 23 when she decided that enough was enough. Having first-hand experience of poverty, she knew what it was like to lack access to adequate sanitary products. She founded I Matter Initiative in August 2019 and she has worked to end period poverty ever since.
“We want to improve access to feminine hygiene products, but also address the stigma, fear, frustration and isolation that is all too often associated with having your period”, says Divine.
In recognition of her tireless work to promote women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, Divine was last year awarded the Human Rights Tulip by the Netherlands.
Kvinna till Kvinna has worked for women’s rights in Rwanda since 2017. We support and work with local women’s rights organisations to end gender-based violence and defend women’s rights. I Matter Initiative works to end period poverty in Rwanda through sanitary kits, SRHR education and by breaking the stigma of menstruation.