UNESCO AND P&G PARTNER TO EMPOWER GIRLS THROUGH PUBERTY EDUCATION
On Thursday, March 13, 2014, UNESCO AND THE ALWAYS BRAND launched the first good policy and practice publication on puberty education and menstrual hygiene management. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, an agency of the United Nations that promotes education and communication and the arts.
This global program is extremely important because it will promote the use of education programs to help girls overcome negative feelings they may have about themselves when they start puberty. Yes, even today, some girls feel shame and embarrassment because they truly don’t understand what is happening to their bodies. For many, the information they may receive, if they do receive information at all, is not factual and can include societal myths designed to keep them feeling unclean and inferior. In fact, many girls don’t go to school when they are menstruating because they are afraid.
Check this out: According to some studies reported by UNESCO, for example one conducted by Oxford University in Ghana, 95% of girls reported sometimes missing school due to menstruation; and research in Ethiopia showed that 39% of girls reported reduced performance at school because they were having their period. According to the Always Brand, an estimated 50 million girls enter puberty every year. Can you imagine the positive implications of creating ways to reduce the stigma that some girls experience as they go through the natural process of development. I can and totally solute Always and UNESCO for what they are hopeful to accomplish.
The booklet that UNESCO and Always have developed includes recommendations on health education to help wipe out the shame associated with periods, while empowering girls to become empowered adults. This will be distributed to educators and administrators everywhere who are responsible for implementation to ensure they have the support needed to actually make programs for girls a reality (And I mean EVERYWHERE, including third world countries where girls are still undervalued unfairly).
I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of the Always Brand, not only for the partnership with UNESCO, which began in 2011, but also for its history of providing education to girls going though puberty. In the United States, the Always Brand has been developing puberty education programs since the 1980s. And, for decades the Always school programs have been distributed globally with the appropriate alterations to ensure cultural sensitivity and understanding. Women’s health experts, medical professionals and, importantly, health educators working as team continue to develop programs that are factual, relevant and useful to teachers who adapt it for their classrooms. It makes sense that they are working with UNESCO to help ensure that girls everywhere have the same advantages that understanding ones body brings.
Listen to some girls tell the story themselves:
Later, when Tambrands was acquired by P&G in 1997, it also acquired Iris Prager, PhD. It was at that time that I joined the Always and Tampax business teams. I loved Dr. Iris from the start and felt that we were so fortunate to have her lead the development of our beinggirl.com website. It was monumental that now girls could access a website designed for them where information was available to answer questions they were too embarrassed to ask. Along with that, the site promoted a “take-charge” attitude of good health habits and self-esteem.
Dr. Iris has a Ph.D. in Health Education from the University of Maryland. She was President of the American Association for Health Education (AAHE) from 2002-2004 and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Advancement of Health Education. AAHE reviewed our educational materials for accuracy, along with other medical professionals, including me. Wish I had known Dr. Iris when I was a whole lot younger – as an expert and as a friend!! As Dr. Iris used to say when asked about working for P&G: “It was the best of both worlds. I got to continue with my love of early teen health education and work in a situation where there were the resources to reach hundreds of thousands of girls with empowering information about their changing bodies.” I think that holds true today for all of us who are in a great position to educate pre-teens globally because of P&Gs appreciation of the need and its willingness to commit resources to do this very important work.