Powering Education with Ingenuity: Sarah M. Teaches Girls in Bolivia How to Make Reusable Menstrual Pads to Stay in School
Around the world, millions of girls in developing countries and rural areas don’t have access to sanitary menstrual pads, so for her Gold Award project, Sarah M. from Girl Scouts Central Texas, decided to do something about it.
Traveling to rural Bolivia, she taught low-income families how to sew repurposed clothing, including fabric from unusable umbrellas, to create washable sanitary pads they can afford.
Girls in developing countries have been missing 20 percent of the school year or even dropping out because they can’t access sanitary menstrual pads. Thanks to Sarah, these statistics will change.
By involving the family and community, she’s transforming societal taboos into ongoing practical solutions, and spreading much-needed awareness for solving this global issue.
Q: Why did you choose this topic for your Gold Award Project?
A: There is a global issue of girls lacking the menstrual resources needed to regularly attend school during their periods. In my local community, I have encountered the unapparent need for of menstrual pads for some girls in my high school. The high cost of menstrual pads forces the girls to resort to other means. In low-income families, menstrual pads are a luxury often overlooked. Girls go without.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in Gold Award
A: I decided to organize workshops in a non-English speaking country, and despite my Hispanic background and experience with Spanish, in order to effectively teach my workshops, I needed to have a strong sense of self. Without my cemented purpose of enabling girls and genuine commitment to taking on this challenge of helping others by exposing myself to their day-to-day lives, the impact of my Gold Award project would not have been as strong.
An example of this was when I held workshops at the center for homeless teen mothers in Santa Cruz. I was further inspired by their strength when they expressed their desire to continue making washable menstrual pads for other homeless girls in Santa Cruz. Their selflessness and transparent nature taught me that you need a strong sense of self, not only for yourself but for those around you. You have the ability to enact positive change in the lives of others but you need to believe you can.
Q: What has been the impact of your project and how is it
A: To individuals who may view real-life problems and their solutions as out of reach, my project showed them how obtainable a solution may be, given community support and involvement. It brought the rural communities together to collectively empower the girls in the community and solve the issue that has decreased female student school attendance around the world.
The communities impacted have continued access to sewing machines that I donated for making washable pads, as well as the knowledge of where to purchase materials and how to repurpose fabric. I am interested in continuing my project as a non-profit in the future and hope to hold additional workshops in Bolivia and expand to other locations around the world.
Q: What have you learned from working on this project?
A: I have learned not to underestimate the impact of one individual and to allow myself to be inspired by others. Moving forward, I can already see—and will continue seeing— the positive impact of my project on my leadership development and growth as an individual.
Q: How has being a Girl Scout helped you?
A: I recognize the true value of the Girl Scout experience and the impact it has had in me; Girl Scouts has helped develop the person I needed to be to follow through on my journey to make a difference.