Women empowerment is one of the most important steps for improving the well-being of women, girls, and the society at large.
Asha Juan Simon from Juba is one such young lady who has demonstrated that with empowerment comes societal change. Asha works with the South Sudan Girl Guides Association as a Menstrual Hygiene Management Officer. Through her work, she has facilitated various outreach initiatives in schools and colleges within Juba through behaviour change programmes aimed at creating awareness amongst young ladies on menstrual hygiene.
“In 2019, during my school project, I wrote an article on changing girls’ lives. My focus areas included entrepreneurship, menstrual hygiene management, and mental awareness. I was so determined to drive change within my community and that’s how my passion as a peer educator started,” said Asha.
Following her passion and the urge to empower girls in her community, Asha who had been trained by Amref Health Africa through outreaches organised in schools and colleges, she confidently joined the organisation as a peer educator as a trainer on menstrual hygiene management.
Upon joining Amref as a peer educator, she has undergone training on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) a project by implemented by Amref in South Sudan and funded by UNFPA targeting schools and colleges in Juba. Armed with her knowledge of menstrual hygiene management, the training on CSE equipped her with additional information on how the two can be integrated to enable girls and women to make empowered choices about their health and well-being.
“In 2021, through Amref, we trained 60 girls on menstrual hygiene management and Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Juba. I was able to engage with girls in our communities and understood some of the challenges they go through as they transition into puberty,” she said. Menstrual Health and Sexual Education intersect as they influence the experience and expression of sexuality.
Just like in most disadvantaged families, financial constraints make it impossible for girls to acquire dignity kits thus leading to many of them dropping out of school, living with low self-esteem, and others ending up in early childhood marriages, exclusion from the society, violence, and untreated health problems. “With such challenges, our focus on making reusable sanitary towels has enabled many girls to make their own pads,” she remarked.
“While conducting the training, we ensure that the girls have access to information, resources, services, and products that are sustainable and cost-effective. One such way of ensuring sustainability is through Amref’s training on alternative pads. The Amref project aims to enlighten school-going girls on menstruation and the most recommended practices on menstrual hygiene management as well as increasing dependence on reusable products among young girls and women in the community.”
Asha encourages young girls to be self-dependent by accepting themselves, making their own choices, having their values, and not relying on “things” to make them happy. “My greatest satisfaction is knowing that the girls we are empowering are beating the odds and excelling in all their undertakings. This is happening and we are proud of the work we are doing as peer educators.”
Stephen King quotes in his memoir: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” This quote depicts Asha’s determination to help enlighten and empower young girls in her community.
Asha has purchased a sewing machine from her savings and is currently seeking support from well-wishers to help her acquire raw materials for making the reusable sanitary pads. “The girls we train currently sew using needles. The challenge with this is that the output is not neat and also consumes much time to make one sanitary pad. With the acquired machine and necessary materials, I will be able to create employment for some of the girls, we will produce quality and durable products that are affordable and readily available for young ladies in our community.”
Annette Kote, Amref Health Africa