When I was 17 years old, I had the honor of interviewing Christine Uwaeyzu, a Rwandan refugee visiting America for the first time. When Christine was a young girl, rebels invaded her home and beheaded her father. Her mother screamed to Christine and her siblings to run, and they did. Christine ran for days until she reached a Women’s Shelter that changed and saved her life.
When I interviewed Christine many years later, she had overcome many life challenges. Her story inspired me to go on my first mission trip to Africa during the summer of 2009.
Christine told me that women in Africa do not have proper sanitary hygiene products that allow them to leave their home while they have their period. The consequence of not having sanitary hygiene products has a ripple effect that we never think about in America. Because they don’t have tampons or pads, they use cloth.
According to UNICEF, one in ten schoolgirls in Africa miss twenty percent of the school year or drop out completely due to their period. Girls who don’t graduate from high school can’t get jobs and are unable to provide for their family. It is extremely important for a woman to find a craft and make money in Africa because a high percentage of men abandon their woman and children.
After I learned about this hopeless cycle, I chose to dedicate my mission to feminine hygiene care and empowering women. Big companies and brands like Delta Airlines and Kotex allowed me to bring thousands of Kotex Pads into the slums and orphanages in Nairobi Kenya. When the women received the Kotex products they were overjoyed and so thankful. My family and I delivered bags and bags of sanity products to three different slums and several women and children’s AIDS orphanages over 10 days.
When I got back from Africa my life drastically changed. Kotex approached me to be their Millennial Spokesperson for, U by Kotex, which has allowed me to continue to empower young women, spread
awareness, and break down barriers regarding feminine hygiene care.
Now, three years later and with the help of Kotex and FSAstore.com, I am going back to Africa, this time South Africa, to continue my mission to empower teenagers and young women. My plan is to visit the SOS Children’s Village in Cape Town and an orphanage in Soweto, outside of Johannesburg to deliver all the products donated by generous sponsors. The children in Africa appreciate the smallest things and remind me to be thankful for all that we have available in America.
This article was featured in Your Teen Magazine.