By Rachel Peck, Volunteer
March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD); a day committed to empowering women and girls to achieve their goals, to raise awareness about the need for a more gender-balanced leadership system and equal pay. This year’s theme is “Be Bold For Change” and IWD is asking both men and women to take a pledge to stand up against gender bias, inequality and to speak out against violence. In addition, IWD is a day for celebrating women’s achievements and to promote women’s advancement, socially, academically and in the workplace.
One of the greatests barriers to equal education and standing in the workplace, in underdeveloped countries, is the lack of menstrual hygiene education. According to an article by the Huffington Post, women in rural areas of Nepal are sent to live in a shed for the duration of their cycle, while a UNICEF study found that 48 percent of women in Iran believe menstruation to be a disease. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published a story titled “Why Can’t Women Be Sushi Masters?”, which talked about how in some parts of Japan, women can’t be sushi chefs. This is due to their menstruation cycles causing an imbalance in their tasting abilities. When women and girls miss school, due to their cycles and are held back from a specific workforce, it’s a setback in the journey towards equal rights for all.
Pure Water for the World (PWW) works in communities in Haiti and Honduras to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene education. Through their work in the community, PWW has collaborated with many incredible people, one of whom, has gone above and beyond to change lives. 25 year-old Vanessa Duran rides her motorcycle an hour and a half every Monday, to teach in a remote school in El Sinar, Trojes in Honduras. When PWW visited her school for the first time, Vanessa was teaching her 34 students and their families, in a small corridor, because the wind had blown the roof off her classroom. Vanessa stays in El Sinar, during the week and then rides the muddy road home for the weekend.
In addition to hygiene education, she teaches to students and their parents, Vanessa has integrated menstrual hygiene and education on puberty changes to the young girls and their mothers. After school, Vanessa teaches the women and girls how to make their own sanitary pads. While Vanessa has taught at the Nelson Rene Moncada School, there have been fewer dropouts and less cases of young girls dropping out, due to pregnancy, or marriage
IWD is not a day just for women. It’s a day celebrating and promoting women, like Vanessa. Equal pay, workforce opportunities, education, hygiene training and being able to work, live and play in a society that recognizes women’s value is a basic human right. To learn more about how PWW empowers women, families and communities, visit the website, sign up to receive newsletters and follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!