Keeping Girls in School through Menstrual and Reproductive Health is a three-year project in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, supported by the Australian Government under the Gender Action Platform (GAP).
In an innovative new partnership, Marie Stopes International Australia and WaterAid Australia are working with adolescent girls in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea to address reproductive and menstrual health, both areas that are critical to girls' ability to be healthy, educated and empowered.
For countries with rapidly increasing youth populations, this project is an opportunity to improve adolescent health and address barriers to education while promoting women-led businesses. This partnership will test one of the first integrated reproductive health and WASH approaches in the region, offering a holistic solution to improving girls' health and education. The project also has a unique women's economic empowerment focus, supporting women-led, small, local businesses in the creation and distribution of sustainable menstrual hygiene kits.
Recognising there is little to no literature or experience on the intersection between sexual and reproductive health, family planning and menstrual hygiene, Keeping Girls in Schoolhas a strong emphasis on shared learning, partnership and strengthened organisational practice to make a valuable contribution to other practitioners in the sector.
Paulina is a representative of the sewing centre Eldas Sewcrafted, a women's cooperative creating reusable and sustainable sanitary products with the support of the project. Paulina has always been crafty. A quick look at her home and you see brightly painted wind chimes recycled from water bottles, a full garden utilizing natural compost, and a large assortment of homemade decorations. However, she never thought her skills would lead to tangible support for her family. Now, she's lowered her production costs, increased her promotional activities and is distributing menstrual hygiene kits to girls in every district of Timor-Leste. "I only sewed my families clothes [before Eldas], but now I feel happy I can help girls with their periods" Paulina says.