‘Foundation21’ here for a change,a foundation my friends Sayem Niloy, Mashrukur Rahman, Arish Islam and I started back in 2018 in the cafeteria of Scholastica Senior Uttara. A simple conversation regarding Robiul, a kid who lived at the Uttara Sector 4 slum. Robiul was only 13 years old when we met him and worked at construction sites as his parents didn’t have good enough jobs to support the family. My friends used to play street football with him and thus came the idea of helping the kids in the slum area of Uttara with basic needs and education. We then proceeded to start a second project called the ‘Red Badge of Courage’, Through this project, we aim to supply workshops in rural areas of Bangladesh as well as different schools to talk about menstruation. Alongside this, we will also manufacture reusable pads, sell it for a low price and the proceeds will go towards manufacturing more reusable pads. In the workshops, we will include the teaching of how to make reusable pads with household items, this portion of the workshop will empower women to work, reduce unemployment, and increase menstrual hygiene level. We aim to provide every girl and woman in Bangladesh with necessary menstrual needs by 2031.
If you aren’t aware of what menstruation is, here’s a crash course!
Menstruation is the process in a woman of discharging blood and other material from the lining of the uterus at intervals of about one lunar month from puberty until the menopause except during pregnancy, but in my words, menstruation is the only blood that is tied to creation, the blood that brings life.
What is the problem you might ask,
- In Bangladesh, the toilet to student ratio is 1:187 whilst the standard according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is one toilet for 25 girls. The study also found that 32% of menstruating girls do not use the toilet at school during their period.
- According to the Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey (BNHBS) 2014, only six percent of girls received any education session related to menstrual hygiene at school.
To us what makes a difference is that we can help the 41% of the schoolgirls in Bangladesh who do not attend classes during their periods, and the 73% women who miss their work for an average 6 days a month for infection (reproductive and urinary tract infections) caused by unhygienic menstrual management
Only about 10% of the female population uses pads. To us, helping about 80% of women who use cloth and 10% tend to not use anything, creates a change for future generations.
Our first project was during the Ramadan of 2018 when we supplied iftar, snacks, drinks, school supplies, and books to 70 kids at Chinnomul Shishu Kollan Shongstha at the Uttara Sector 4 slum right by the railway. We started 2019 by hosting a charity football tournament called F21 Cup, Chapter 1 through which we gathered blankets and sweaters for over 30 families who live by the slum. Throughout 2019 we gathered materials and solid planning for foundation 21. 1 During the winter of 2019 we held F21 Cup, Chapter 2 where we raised Tk.15,000 for the manufacturing of reusable pads. You can say the beginning of our 2020 was great as we received a grant of $1000 from a grant scheme called ‘Go Make a Difference’ which is only available to UWC students. We have received the fund for the manufacturing of reusable pads as well as to hold workshops. I had also applied for a TedxYouth at UWC Atlantic College regarding menstruation and foundation 21, which was to be held on the 5th of April 2020, however, the Tedx Talk got canceled as we had to leave campus and come back home, and the project will be executed hopefully when the during the summer of 2021 or whenever COVID-19 is gone and it is safe to carry it out.
You may ask why is the ‘Red Badge of Courage’ our main focus and
Why do I care? Because looking back, I wish I had all the information and proper knowledge of menstruation, I wish I had an atmosphere where menstruation is not a taboo and no women have to hide and sink away while they are bleeding to one day give life to someone.
Why should you care? Regardless of gender, this is something us women bleed through 7 days per month till menopause, we get up stronger, we do everything regardless of menstruation or not. But when the society oppresses you, shuts you down and tells to stop talking about it.”, when society oppresses you from your rights as a woman, that’s when you know a change is needed, that’s when you understand we all need to help women who can’t afford menstrual products and help women talk periods.
Foundation 21 has a great team of talented and dedicated members who have helped us grow as a family. If you want more information on our work or us to check out our Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/foundationb21) or Instagram ( @foundationtwentyone)
Abreshmi Anika Chowdhury
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