According to the UNESCO Report Puberty education and menstrual hygiene management, around 10% of girls in Sub-Saharan regions are unable to attend classes when they’re menstruating, due to a lack of appropriate products. As a result, they lose out on approximately 20% of their overall education.
Divine Ingabire was determined to alter this situation.
Five years ago, she embarked on a journey to offer hope to hundreds of girls and women in Rwanda. Drawing from her personal experience of having insufficient access to feminine hygiene products during her youth, Ingabire established the I Matter Initiative in 2019 after graduating from university.
Her goal is to reinstate dignity, enhance well-being and eliminate educational barriers arising from the absence of proper hygiene products.
To bridge this gap, her organisation actively distributes sustainable sanitary products to over 1 500 girls and women each month through outreach programs across eight districts in Rwanda. Ingabire, along with her dedicated team, tirelessly advocates for women’s health and empowerment by providing eco-friendly solutions to a pressing need.
The I Matter Initiative also published Akanigi Kanjye, a book on menstrual health, hygiene, sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) and destigmatisation, which has been distributed in secondary schools and is also available in Braille editions.
The organisation recognises the critical role of legal frameworks in safeguarding the sexual reproductive health rights of women and girls. After completing a few rigorous legal training courses, Ingabire and others in the organisation strategically engaged with key stakeholders to advocate for policy reforms, culminating in the scrapping of taxes on some sanitary pads.
“One of the training programs was designed to fortify movement building and SRHR advocacy. This course equips women-led organisations with essential collaboration skills and effective advocacy strategies for women's health rights,” Ingabire explained.
Encompassing legal frameworks at various levels, strategic thinking and advocacy techniques, Ingabire said the course enriched her understanding of legal constructs and empowered her to contribute more effectively to the promotion of SRHR in Rwanda.
“We comprehend the financial challenges faced by many women and girls, compounded by the burden of taxes on sanitary pads. Witnessing the removal of taxes on certain pad brands was a significant milestone. Our objective is unwavering – to eliminate taxes on all sanitary pad brands,” she emphasised.
Ingabire’s dedication to this cause was recently celebrated when she received the 20 for 20 Solidarity SRHR Award from the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition. This recognition highlights her exceptional contributions to advancing the Maputo Protocol, a legal framework addressing women’s issues in Africa.
Her advice to women and girls is: “We are leaders with numerous opportunities ahead of us. I encourage all women and girls around the world to work harder to be the change makers and to speak out against any violation of our rights as we strive for sustainable development goals 2030.”
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