Rabya’s story: How your donation helps girls go to school

Rabya, age 18, in the classroom at her school in Ferehenu, Ethiopia

A donation to CARE’s Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign will be matched £ for £ by the UK government – and this is the sort of difference your donation can make.

I now have my personality back because I am free to be myself and am not constantly worrying.

Imagine being a girl – and not being able to go to school because you are menstruating. But that’s the reality for a lot of girls around the world – girls like Rabya, now aged 18, who lives in Ferehenu, a village in the rural Afar region of Ethiopia.

Menstruation is a taboo subject in many rural communities like Ferehenu. During their period, girls and women often stay at home because of stigma and the lack of sanitary products.

This is what it was like for Rabya.

I was 15 when my period first started, I wasn’t expecting it and I wasn’t told about it from my family so I didn’t know what it was.

“I wore lots of extra clothes and moved very carefully so nothing showed and I didn’t go to school.

“When I would go to school with my period I couldn’t focus or concentrate as I was thinking about what was happening to me and if anyone would be able to tell.”

CARE’s project – funded by the UK government through UK Aid Match donations – has helped to change this. The project has trained teachers in Afar to run hygiene and gender equality clubs in schools. So far, we have trained two teachers from each of the six schools in the area.

Teacher and female students in classroom in Ethiopia
Rabya (centre) and her teacher, Alam (right), who runs the menstrual hygiene club at the school

For Rabya, the benefits are clear: no shame, no stigma, and the ability to go to school and concentrate on her education.

“I joined the club four months ago and I got given knickers and pads as well training from my teacher,” says Rabya.

Alam, a teacher in her classroom in Ethiopia
Alam in her classroom at the school in Ferehenu

Rabya’s teacher, Alam, runs the menstrual hygiene club at the school. After training from CARE’s Women’s Empowerment and Gender Officer, and with re-usable sanitary pads provided by the CARE project that Alam hands out to the students, she’s now giving the 20 girls who come to the club the confidence and knowledge to manage their periods. Alam says:

“Before the club there was intermittent attendance from the girls who had their periods, so they were missing out on their education because they felt frustrated and ashamed and not comfortable to go to school.

“Now I am able to pass on knowledge to the girls and attendance has increased.”

The girls also pass on what they have learnt to their peer group. And because the girls in the club are from different classes, the information is disseminated as widely as possible. As Rabya explains:

“I teach my friends in and outside of school when we are alone.”

These girls and young women still face obstacles. There are still no toilets in school – though the CARE project plans to build some soon – so, as Rabya explains, “I cannot change the pad until I get home, which is an hour’s walk away from school.”

A group of young girls in Ferehenu, Ethiopia
A group of young girls in Ferehenu, Ethiopia

And there is still the risk of early marriage – many girls try to hide their periods from their families, because if they are old enough to menstruate, they are considered to be old enough to marry. As Rabya explains:

“I knew if anyone found out I would be eligible for marriage. I confided in my friends that I had got my period but I made them promise not to tell anyone else.”

These attitudes are slowly changing – helped by the way the hygiene clubs are removing the stigma around menstruation and enabling young women like Rabya to live and learn with safety, dignity and respect.

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Help Her Live Learn and Earn & UK aid match logos

Donate now and your donation will be doubled by the UK government* – with your donation helping to fund CARE’s work with women and girls in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, and the UK Aid Match funds going directly to help women farmers in Tanzania.

* Donations doubled until 22 April 2018. The UK government will match up to £5 million in donations to the Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign.

Read more about the Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.