The gift of freedom

Berkshire Life|July 2020

The gift of freedom
How a simple cup is changing lives...
Rhiane Kirkby

“I felt so privileged, so ignorant, so stupid and so Western. I’d lived and worked in Africa for so many years. I knew how impossibly hard it was to find tampons or any sanitary protection, but I never thought to consider what women there would use.”

That was then. Now, Widge Woolsey, from Bray, thinks about period poverty every single day. It’s her passion, her reason for being and true vocation in life. This shift in focus came about because, on a trip to Malawi, she befriended Nandi Mwkwhawa.

Nandi is an intelligent woman, she has a Health and Hygiene qualification, has always worked and spends her life offering contraceptive advice to women and yet, despite all that, once a month Nandi used cloth rags to soak up her period. Rags which caused a rash, discomfort and distress; the same bits of material being used month on month, year on year.

“Despite our friendship,” explains Widge, “it was hard for Nandi to tell me this and deeply embarrassing for her to show me those clothes, but when she did, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. You see, Nandi was not alone. She was one of hundreds of thousands of women in rural Africa using rags, newspaper or bits of old blankets because sanitary protection is so difficult to find and prohibitively expensive. She had been one of hundreds of thousands of girls missing a week of school every month, some even having underage sex to earn money to buy pads.”

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July 2020