Around the world, women and girls have complex health needs.
MCC partners with organizations and church groups from Tanzania to Syria to Colombia to ensure women and girls have access to hygiene products when they’re menstruating, sexual education, training on safe birthing techniques and mental health supports.
Here are a few examples of our partners meeting women and girls’ health needs globally:
Preventing HIV transmission between mothers and babies – Nigeria
MCC photo/Matthew Lester
Both women and men face HIV and AIDS, but pregnant women and nursing mothers risk passing the disease on to their babies.
MCC partners with Faith Alive Foundation (FAF) in Jos, Nigeria to reduce the prevalence of HIV in Plateau State by working to prevent parent-to-child transmission of new infections.
Dr. Chris Isichei, pictured above, is the director and founder of Faith Alive Foundation and a physician at Faith Alive’s clinic and hospital. He takes the blood pressure of his patient, Josephine Eze. She is visiting the clinic to pick up medication and for a checkup. Her two-year-old son, Destiny Eze, accompanies her on the visit. Josephine is HIV positive, but Destiny is HIV negative because of the support of Faith Alive during her pregnancy and birth. She’s since safely given birth to another HIV-free baby.
Josephine participated in the clinic’s program for prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV, which includes free prenatal and postnatal care and labor and delivery services. MCC provides HIV testing supplies and antiretroviral medication to FAF, but also financially supports the program for prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and education and livelihood programs for patients.
Sexual Education – Colombia
MCC photo/Chantelle Garber
Access to information doesn’t necessarily mean people are accessing that information. In Colombia, resources for sexual health are available, but sexually transmitted infections, early pregnancies and sexual violence continue to be problems.
In response to these issues, MCC’s partner in Colombia, Edupaz, provides sexual education classes in 10 churches and five schools as a way of reducing sexual and gender-based violence and encouraging decision making that promotes wellbeing.
Above, Gabriela Bocanegra Espinosa, 17, and Keilyn Carolina Mazo Chiquito, 11, are participants in sexual health classes at their school.
Trauma-informed health education — Syria
Photo courtesy of MECC
It’s difficult to take care of your physical and emotional needs when you’re traumatized by war.
In Syria, MCC’s partner Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) holds health awareness courses for women affected by conflict.
Public health doctors and MECC staff lecture on health awareness topics such as nutrition, diabetes, first aid, sexually health, breast cancer, blood pressure and osteoporosis. Additional lectures focused on psychological support, which resonated with many participants.
Marian, a retired teacher and a mother of three sons, whose full name can’t be used for security reasons, was one of the participants. "We have all experienced stress and tension as a consequence of the crisis and the mortar shells that showered us," she said. "But now I know how to control stress and anxiety."
Viollet, a French teacher, has seen first-hand the power of sharing their knowledge.
"Nothing can give you more pleasure than helping others," she said. "We acquired valuable information which we relayed to people who badly need it since many affected and displaced persons suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes or osteoporosis and they just cannot consult a nutritionist to find out what food they should avoid."
The project has been extended to continue supporting Syrian women; at the request of the participants, the families they visited will also receive hygiene kits from MCC.
Access to hygiene items in schools – India
MCC photo/Gordon Zook
In certain contexts, a lack of access to basic hygiene products could mean girls aren’t in school for several days a month.
MCC’s community school program in India recently funded a sanitary napkin dispensary in Raghabpur St. Paul’s High School in the Parganas district of West Bengal, India. MCC provided money for the dispenser and the local school district pays for the pads.
For just a few rupees (a highly subsidized rate), students like Sonia Singh, left, and Nikita Shaw, right, can pick up a pack of five feminine hygiene products that they might otherwise not be able to afford and stay in school for the remainder of the day.
Other MCC projects are providing girls with hygiene products so they can stay in school, including Kenya Economic Development Human Advancement Program (KEDHAP)
Female Genital Mutilation prevention – Tanzania
TEMBO photo/Paulina Sumayani
In some parts of the world, access to education isn’t just limited by school fees and uniforms, but also by cultural expectations that girls stop attending after grade six and instead take part in cultural rituals to prepare them for marriage.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a common cultural practice in Tanzania and other countries around the world. Young girls sometimes undergo FGM, a process to remove part or all of a girl’s external genitals. The dangerous procedure can cause serious damage, physically and emotionally, or even death. For those girls who survive, marriage is the next step, and finishing school is out of the question.
MCC partner, Tanzania Education and Micro Business Opportunity (TEMBO) Trust teaches grade five students about reproductive health and the harmful effects of FGM through a program called “Sara and Juma.” It also encourages families to keep their daughters in school by providing tutoring camps during the break between grade six and seven.
Noormirihi Kayongo, pictured above, is a Maasai woman living in Longido, Tanzania, who is committed to giving her daughters an education and having them avoid the painful rite of passage.
Paulina Sumayani, the executive director of TEMBO, says it’s a challenging message for some Maasai communities, because they don’t acknowledge a girl has reached womanhood or adulthood unless she has been circumcised.
“People have been doing it (FGM) for so many years, so it is not easy to tell a person to change that habit and start something else instead. It is a very slow process, but it is happening,” she explains.
TEMBO encourages alternative rites of passage to signify adulthood, including community gatherings, educating the girl about her body and giving gifts to her, just like they would if she would be circumcised.