Suzan Lucas Yumbe is the founder and director of Afya Plus, an organisation based in the Iringa region in Tanzania, dealing with water sanitation, hygiene and women empowerment.
The hygiene activist’s current project is menstrual hygiene management, providing health education about menstrual hygiene management and sanitary pads to girls who come from poor families.
“In our project, we have reached 23 schools in Iringa Tanzania, 15 secondary schools and 8 primary schools,” she says.
The innovator has managed to reach 3 700 girls from those 23 schools, but provides sanitary pads to 685 girls only, although hoping to help more girls in her community.
Due to the many challenges girls face during menstruation, Yumbe and her team are in the process of starting a small industry of reusable sanitary pads that will be used for more than six months.
The organisation started with four sewing machines, making a few sanitary pads. This will help many girls and women who can’t afford sanitary pads.
Her need to contribute to changing the lives of these young girls emanated from her work as a healthcare worker, which broadened her understanding of the gross challenges resulting from poor menstrual hygiene for young girls living in rural areas, leading to poor school attendance and low education scores. This has driven her to realise she has a role to help these young girls through her knowledge.
Yumbe attributes the progress made in these projects as a result of teamwork. Involvement of political, religious and government officials in the region has made it easier for her in implementing some of the issues.
She started by providing health education on hand washing and menstrual hygiene to schools in mid-2017. With the involvement of the political and religious elders, they managed to provide health education and break the taboo against discussions around menstrual issues.
High tax on sanitary pads was another challenge they faced. Working with other NGO’s in approaching government helped to change the law and now sanitary pads are untaxed.
Yumbe has seen the African life challenges faced by the youth. She believes that youth is part of the solution, so involving them in finding solutions is of vital importance. She encourages the young African generation to be more creative and keep doing things for a change. Urging them to do something good for others will help them move forward positively.
Her vision is to have a community very aware of menstrual hygiene management, with no stigma attached.
Providing low cost reusable sanitary pads to all rural areas through her well performing sanitary industry will see girls improving their educational performance. What really excites her about what she is doing is seeing positive change, especially to the young girls who through knowledge of their menstrual cycles with no stigma, feel as though they are really empowered, free and courageous, with improved school attendance and performance.
Looking ahead Yumbe would like to see more young people young women involved in resolving some of the challenges we face in society. She is eager to bring a positive change and inspire more young girls to do the same.