Menstruate and Educate
Sarah Boateng is no stranger to defying the odds. When she was younger, her mother would tell her stories of what life in rural Ghana was like as a child. Every month, Sarah’s mom would miss 4-5 days of school to menstruate. She would miss so many days of school that it was nearly impossible to keep up. But, like Sarah’s grandmother, her mom had an undeniable entrepreneurial fire, and a deep desire to rise above circumstances and make life better for herself and her family, so on her days away from the classroom, she would sell oranges on the side of the road to make extra money.
Years later, Sarah walked these same streets where her mother sold oranges as a newly graduated masters student. Sarah did not expect the harsh realities of life for women and girls in Ghana, that even she would not be excused from. Proper sanitary napkins were almost non-existent in rural Ghana during the 4 months Sarah was visiting. “The closest place to get a tampon or pad was at least 3 miles away. And even when you did have a pad, they were expensive, itchy and you bleed right through them.”
Sarah was hurt watching the young women in these rural communities struggle to afford basic hygiene products and being forced to sacrifice their education. When her business school mentor called her about an opportunity to start her own non-profit with an organization called Peace First, Sarah knew this was the perfect opportunity to make a change in these young women’s lives. So, the day after her 25th Birthday, Sarah attended her first Peace First Lab and Project Menstruate and Educate was created.
Menstruate and Educate is a program under Sarah’s nonprofit, Investing in Girls Education in Africa (IGEA). IGEA’s mission is to deliver quality education to girls in rural parts of Africa. Sarah and her team provide kits to young women that include underwear and reusable pads. Not only do these kits address the immediate need for proper hygiene tools, but also set an important example for sustainability within the sanitary napkin market.
Sarah and her team piloted their Peace First project on 100 girls in Ghana. The data that she shared around Menstruate and Educate was astounding. “I remember asking the girls, “who here still goes to school when they are on their period? And out of all 100 girls who were in that room that day, only 4 of them raised their hands, and that’s when I really realized how important this was.”
Sarah has big goals for IGEA. She hopes that within the next few years, her organization will be serving hundreds of girls in all 14 districts in Ghana. “Advocating for girls in rural communities is so important to me.” Sarah hopes to reduce the number of young women in her community who don’t attend school while they’re on their periods, from 96% to 0.
Although Sarah can admit the task seems daunting, there is no doubt that this 25-year-old peacemaker can get it done. After all, defying the odds runs in Sarah’s blood.