It is not everyday you get to to meet one of the cool feminists in the world. But today was the day!
So, let me introduce you to Stella Nyanzi!
This woman was imprisoned in a maximum security prison just because she called Uganda’s president: “a pair of buttocks”. Yeah, you heard right!
She called the Ugandan president “a pair of buttocks” because during the recent election campaign, he had promised Ugandan school girls free menstrual pads – since 3 out of 10 girls in Uganda don’t go to school when they’re on their period.
When the president had been re-elected, his wife Janet Museveni, Education Minister in Uganda, stated back in February there was no money in the budget for free menstrual pads.
Stella Nyanzi made this statement:
“What malice plays in the heart of a woman who sleeps with a man who finds money for millions of bullets, billions of bribes, and uncountable ballots to stuff into boxes but she cannot ask him to prioritize sanitary pads for poor school girls?”
Yesterday, I met her at a small cafe in the middle of Kampala. Nervously, I thanked her for her struggle. Something as natural as menstruation shouldn’t prevent girls from having or taking an education. She smiled and said:
“I am happy you keep fighting. I’m tired”.
Stella had collected over 8 million shillings, which she spent buying sanitary pads for school girls throughout Uganda. She told me that before she began the campaign, she didn’t know the issue was so extensive. She told me she came to schools where girls used mud as sanitary pads. In some villages, girls used sand as sanitary pads when they could feel their period was on its way. They sat in the sand until their period was no more.
The next thing she told me made me cry:
There are areas in Uganda where girls can’t even afford underwear, so Stella was told if she came with free sanitary pads, she would also have to give the girls a pack of underwear.
Just let that sink in: In 2017, there are girls who don’t own a pair of briefs!
The main advice Stella gave to me was this:
Even though I make reusable sanitary pads to poor girls, it should be produced with the heart. She said that I’m about to produce a product teenagers would be proud. Because teenagers are teenagers, whether in Uganda or in Denmark.
“Don’t make them feel like you’re producing a product just because you’re sorry for them. But because they deserve a good product”.