Girls’ periods don’t stop after an emergency. That’s why dignity kits are vital.
In the toughest conditions, a few essential items can transform how a girl manages her period.
Most girls and women remember their first period as a life-changing experience. But imagine having to cope with your first period while taking emergency shelter in a school, because your home has been destroyed by flooding.
Alongside the fear, uncertainty and trauma of your experiences, you’d suddenly have other emotional and practical issues to deal with too.
Where would you get supplies to manage your period? What if you didn’t have a change of clothes? Who could you talk to for help and support?
Mozambique: the impact of Cyclone Idai
When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique earlier this year, 177,000 people in the Bizu district were affected. UNICEF estimates that 47,000 of them were girls.
Thousands of these girls will have been menstruating at the time, and many will have experienced their first period during the immediate aftermath of the flooding.
In Mozambique, girls usually learn about menstruation when their first period starts. That’s when they move to their grandmother’s house – or the home of an older woman in the family – and are taught how to manage it.
Before the crisis, girls and women used reusable sanitary pads called pathos, made of fabric. Once used, they were washed and dried inside the household.
While girls and women have told us they didn’t have enough information before their first period, most managed with a sense of normality. The cyclone changed everything.
‘We lost all we had in the water’
After the cyclone, 13-year-old Anabela and her mother, Elizete, had to shelter in a school. They lost everything in the flooding and now, alongside 91,000 others in the country, they rely on aid.
Both have had their period since arriving at the shelter. There is a severe shortage of sanitary pads, so Anabela and Elizete have to wash and re-use any materials they manage to find.
“We lost all we had in the water and are now forced to use a small piece of cotton material between the two of us," says Elizete.
“There are so many of us sheltering in the school and we have very few resources. I am scared of our next period because we won’t have enough material and water to use.”
Meeting the specific needs of girls
When you support one of our emergency appeals, or donate to our Children's Emergency Fund, you help us act fast when an emergency happens. Thanks to you, we're also one of the few aid agencies considering the specific needs of adolescent girls in emergencies.
In Mozambique, our aim is to make sure girls can manage their periods with greater comfort and confidence, despite the challenging circumstances they’re living in.
Having spoken to them about their immediate needs, we’re scaling up our response to distribute thousands of dignity kits, soaps and buckets. We’re also providing water purification tablets to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases, as well as ensuring girls and women aren’t forced to travel long distances to fetch clean water.
In the longer-term, our aim is to enable girls and women to make pathos again, as well as securing soap to clean them and creating private spaces to dry them or safely dispose of them.
We know that dignity kits can make a huge difference to girls’ lives.
In Bangladesh, Rohingya girls living in the camps of Cox’s Bazar face multiple difficulties when managing their periods.
As well as the cultural norms that stigmatise periods, the conditions in the camps remain crowded and unsanitary. There is a constant shortage of pads and clean cloths, as well as a lack of medication for cramps, and disposing of used sanitary products is a huge challenge.
Girls without sanitary items have to borrow from one another, rationing the few products they have between them.
That’s why Plan International have been distributing dignity kits, and giving girls like Nurkaida the chance to experience their period differently.
"During menstruation, I used to sit and stay all day long inside the tent. I could not move at all for a few days,” explains Nurkaida.
“Now, after receiving the dignity kit, I can move around my tent and help my mother in household chores. It’s so comfortable. I never used these before.”
Latest stories for you
I met with Priti Patel to talk about public sexual harassment.
A look at how you’ve supported children and young people through an unimaginable year.
Gemma from Our Streets Now shares her experience of public sexual harassment and the #...