UNFPA throws support behind First Lady’s menstrual hygiene initiative

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The Menstrual Hygiene Initiative undertaken by First Lady Arya Ali, to end period poverty in Guyana, was given a significant boost yesterday with a donation of US$50,000 worth of sanitary pads by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

“Removing barriers to access basic sanitary products for girls allow them to exercise their reproductive rights. UNFPA is therefore pleased to support the excellent period poverty initiative of the First Lady as it addresses the right to health, dignity and gender equality,” UNFPA Liaison Officer for Guyana Mr Adler Bynoe said during a simple handing over ceremony at State House.

Describing the donation as “significant,” Mrs Ali thanked the UN agency for its support and highlighted how important it is for the issue of period poverty to be recognized and actioned by international organizations like the United Nations. UNFPA will also be partnering with the Office of the First Lady next year to conduct sensitization workshops on sexual and reproductive health, and the implementation of a public education and awareness campaign.

Last year, Mrs Ali announced her intention to end period poverty in Guyana – an issue that adversely affects women and girls in the hinterland and restricts access to education. Sanitary pads are currently being distributed in secondary schools across all ten administrative regions. More than 30,000 students will receive one year’s supply of pads. Mrs. Ali explained too that the initiative started with a focus on school-aged girls – many of whom were unable to attend school when they experienced their menstruation because they either could not afford or access sanitary products.

“So we started with the schools; providing coverage to all school-aged girls, and then we will move to providing coverage to women, beginning with the most vulnerable,” the First Lady stated.

This year, the Government provided $50M of $60M required to provide full coverage to all school-aged girls. Donations, sponsorship and fundraisers have helped to compensate for the shortfall. With full coverage provided to all school-aged girls, attention will now be on providing sanitary products to women in vulnerable situations, with the aim of expanding coverage countrywide.

In the long term, the project seeks to ensure that every woman and girl in Guyana is provided with free sanitary products. (Office of the First Lady press release)

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