At the Abukloi High School in the city of Rumbek, South Sudan, 175 girls collectively miss over 1,000 days of school each month because their families cannot afford to buy them menstrual hygiene supplies.
Thanks to a $4,750 grant from The Rotary Foundation, this is about to change.
Through the efforts of Gertrude Noden, a member of the Rotary Club of Ithaca and founder of a not-for-profit called Words Into Deeds, the Abukloi students have received sewing machines, materials, and training with the goal of producing 600 reusable feminine hygiene kits a year. The grant also supports lessons in gender equity, reproductive health and business planning.
“To level the playing field at this school, we need to provide feminine reusable kits that are environmentally friendly and to teach the girls how to use them so they can attend classes every day of the month,” Noden said.
Each kit costs $4 to produce and will last for the length of the school year. Once the needs of Abukloi students are met, kits will be made available to schools in surrounding villages and sold at the local market.
Funding for this grant comes from The Rotary Foundation, Rotary’s charitable arm, which approved the project based on the recommendation of Rotary District 7170, which includes Tompkins and six other counties in Central New York.
The grant builds upon the success of a previous Ithaca Rotary award that Noden used to establish a sewing salon in Gulu, Northern Uganda. Launched in 2022, this facility provides young mothers with 6-months of training in all aspects of textile design and production accompanied with psychosocial counselling and lessons in business management.
To date, 30 young women have been trained, and have formed a licensed company in Gulu that is producing clothing, backpacks, dolls and sandals in addition to feminine hygiene kits.
The 2022 award of $12,000 from the International Service Committee of the Rotary Club of Ithaca was not only instrumental in launching the program but also in obtaining additional funds from private donors to Words Into Deeds that have supported its expansion.
“Gertrude has been innovative in leveraging support to build entrepreneurial and educational initiatives that benefit women, girls, their families and communities,” said Nancy Potter, cochair of the Ithaca Rotary’s International Service Committee.