Five years ago, the idea for the NGO, Femme International developed out of a class assignment: design a water and sanitation program for a rural village in Kenya.
Graduate students Sabrina Rubli and Ella Marinic from the International Development program at Humber College questioned what resources girls have while on their period and if there is enough or any access to running water or private restrooms during this time. Femme’s founders later discovered the lack of facilities and affordable sanitary products was leading girls in Kenya to miss an average of 4.9 days of school every month.
The Humber graduates later launched a pilot project for the purpose of bringing menstrual health education and menstrual cups and supplies to women and girls in East Africa to help improve and maintain female attendance at school.
Since then Sabrina Rubli, the co-founder of Femme, and her team continue to expand their global footprint. To date, Femme has impacted more than 11,000 women and girls in Kenya and Tanzania and has played a significant role in breaking down menstrual taboos.
Rubli visited Humber International Development post-graduate certificate students last week, where she began the class discussion by saying, “we need to create a safe space for girls to ask questions they shouldn’t be afraid to ask.”
Pulling out a menstrual cup, a reusable pad and a washcloth from a small pouch, Rubli shows the class what women in developing countries are using to continue to feel empowered during a new chapter in their lives.
“For a 15-year-old girl who never talked about her period and may be teased for having it, this can be very uncomfortable, even though it is something very normal and natural,” Rubli says.
Femme’s mission is to continue providing sexual education for these women and break down the barriers in countries where discussing menstruation can be sensitive based on community beliefs, cultures and customs.
“We are invested in researching in Tanzania to collect clinical research and quantities research about women affected by this change,” Rubli says. “Women’s thoughts and ideas are not always shown in data we or others collect … there is so much more we need to address in order to inform and help others.”
Femme is working with new brands and finding new ways donors can help change the way women and men approach the discussion.
Although the organization focuses on women’s body development and well-being, Rubli says men continue to be more involved and actively participate in discussions to create a better life for young women.
Femme is addressing menstrual health and hygiene and tackling the cause of the gender disparity to ensure both boys and girls have the same opportunity to excel in their professional, academic and personal goals and beliefs.
To learn more about the organization, visit www.femmeinternational.org/.