MAF women support 100 young women during a church conference at a remote site with reusable pads and education on their menstrual cycle.
Story by Mandy Glass
At least 100 girls and young women in a remote region of Papua New Guinea will experience new freedom in the months to come, thanks to an initiative supplying them with sanitary pads and advice.
For many girls in villages where access to sanitary pads is limited, very expensive or not available, having their period is a monthly challenge. It affects their education, in some tribal cultures even their ability to be with or eat with people. Ripped up old clothes or moss might be all they can access.
However, at a church conference in Eliptamin, a five-minute flight from Telefomin but inaccessible by road, MAF volunteers and their local friends handed out the reusable packs in small workshops.
“It was a blessing to be involved in distributing ‘Days for Girls’ bags at the conference,” said Bernadette Axon. “Imagine not having access to sanitary products, or only products that are very expensive. That is the situation that these girls face.”
Bernadette Axon and Siobhain Cole live with their pilot husbands and families at the MAF base in Telefomin. Both attend the Telefomin Baptist Women Fellowship. For the conference, they partnered with their two Papua New Guinean friends Vero and Joyce, to distribute ‘Days for Girls’ packs and answer questions.
Siobhain presented general education on the menstrual cycle and shared about her own experience. Then the groups of 20 split up even smaller, with five or six girls or mothers.
Siobhain, Bernadette, Joyce and Vero handed the women a ‘Days for Girls’ bag and demonstrated how to use the pads, how to care for them to make them last for two or three years and emphasised the importance of cleanliness during their periods; making time to practise assembling the pads and privacy to ask personal questions without shame.
Over 500 women attended the Min Baptist Union Women’s Association Conference at Eliptamin – an event which happens once every three years.
MAF provided 20 subsidised flights enabling 170 women from 11 airstrip communities in the Min region to join the conference. Many others walked there.
“We were able to give out 100 packs to young ladies from the bush who were incredibly grateful,” said Bernadette.
Going through the monthly menstruation cycle is a shared frustration for all women, access to sanitary pads seems a privilege of being born in a certain location and society.
“These things which I took for granted in my youth, are far more challenging for girls and women living in bush places in PNG,” Siobhain said.
“If sanitary products are in the store, they are extremely expensive. Many bush women make do with rags when it's their time of the month, which, if not cleaned properly, can lead to infections. Most bush homes have a pit-toilet, but no access to running water. To wash effectively involves a walk to the river.”
The packs were prepared by wonderful women in Australia, Canada and the UK who with much love and enthusiasm sew these ‘Days for Girls’ bags.
As more donations of packs are received, Vero and Joyce along with the newly trained women can distribute them and be advocates in their communities.