The African Women’s Federation of South Australia (AFWSA) wanted to educate young African girls (and their families) about periods and menstruation, to break down taboos and barriers across generations and between men and women. They also wanted to create and promote a more supportive environment for young African girls, both at home and within Adelaide’s African community.  

“We believe a combined approach of educating African parents (mothers and fathers) and adolescent girls is beneficial to family health and moves towards the goal of breaking menstruation taboos and barriers, thereby creating and promoting a more supportive environment at home.” 

As a 2023 recipient of a Commissioner’s Community Grant, AFWSA used their grant funds to deliver a program of events that offered appropriate culturally safe education about periods and menstruation to 48 African adolescent girls and their mothers. Attendees included African girls and women from Liberia, Uganda, Eritrea, Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Guinea, South Sudan, Sierra Leonne, Ethiopia/Tigray now living in Adelaide.  

The events included a Mother and Daughter High Tea, a Maternal Health Care Project Conference, and a Period Workshop held at Adelaide Secondary School of English. The grant funding was also used to support the purchase of education resources and period management products that included videos, books, and menstrual hygiene products.  Each girl who attended received a First Period Pack and made a Period Bracelet to promote discussion around the hormonal interplay of a typical 28-day menstrual cycle.  

“The programme and videos challenged cultural norms. For example: men and boys knowing about periods and promoting positive safe discussions around periods with men. The period “Period Talk” video also touched upon cultural differences and approaches in other countries when a woman is on her period. This sparked more conversations and comparisons about cultural norms and taboos.” 

The Australian book “Welcome to Your Period” was distributed to every family who attended the High Tea with a copy also donated to the Adelaide Secondary School Library. Educational resources for AWFSA’s target communities were sourced and printed in Swahili, Tigrinya, Dinka, Arabic and easy read English and distributed to school students who attended.  

Girls were also able to handle and discuss a range of period management products that included menstrual cups, period underwear, and washable pads. This opportunity raised students’ and their mothers’ awareness around the alternative, sustainable and more affordable period products now available that they can choose to use to manage their periods.  

Read what some of the young African girls who participated had to say: 

“I loved that we could speak openly, I learnt that periods are [all] different and that it is normal, I learnt that warm water helps.”     Female 16  

“The High Tea was very helpful, and I learnt new things…. I learnt about how to smell good and have good hygiene on your periods”.     Female 13  

“After going to the High Tea, I got to see the mother’s perspective more. I got to see how they managed their periods and the different traditions and how they did stuff back in the day and I also got to see the progress in the world we have and how lucky we are. I enjoyed interacting with people my age and doing activities with them and seeing how open mothers were about the possibility of this new subject….”     Female 14  

Learning about how African women had managed their periods in the past was an unexpected outcome with many of the girls and their mothers expressing their appreciation for being introduced to the new products available. They could see how they could help eliminate some of the embarrassment of leaks and accidents that posed barriers to attending school and sport as well as removing the fear of being embarrassed in social situations. Many of the mothers expressed their deep gratitude for the opportunity to learn and to participate in the events alongside their daughters and granddaughters.  

“We believe that the objectives of the programme were thoroughly and successfully met. Not only did we supply beautiful products to the target groups, we creatively addressed menstrual taboo and stigma in the African Community. This was a twofold strategy targeting not only adolescent girls but also their older sisters, mothers, and grandmothers, breaking down traditional barriers and stigma to help create safer more supportive environments at home.” 

You can read the full report from the African Women’s Federation of South Australia here.