“Research and innovation are often thought of as sectors dominated by traditional scientists so we were proud to interject our voices and hold our ground as social scientists and researchers"
Research emerging from the United Nations and the World Health Organization over the past decade has shown young girls in the developing world routinely skipping and dropping out of school at higher rates than their male counterparts. When investigating the qualitative patterns, a startling trend can be found. Roughly ten percent of girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen are leaving school for reasons related to menstruation.
Tasked with developing an intervention strategy to promote girls’ school retention rates, a team from Dr. Robin Chandler’s Gender in the African Diaspora course, decided to tackle education barriers of menstruation. Investigating successful models and proven best practices, Martha Durkee-Neuman, Shareeka Helaluddin, Rondeesha Lee, Daija Spaulding, Rodas Beyene, Erin Simone, and Ralph Karnuah, created a program model to pitch to RISE2016.
There are many social issues associated with a lack of sanitation and feminine hygiene beyond school retention rates including: early marriage, poverty, no or low healthcare, gendered and sexual violence, taboos about the female body, as well as patriarchal attitudes that challenge female dignity and empowerment. In order to create an upstream solution to these issues, the team coalesced the most successful attributes of current projects operating in Kenya and Sudan into a culturally sensitive, sustainable, and ethical solution. The best practices include: distribution of reusable menstrual supplies in schools; affordable, long-term access; small socially-innovative businesses employing local women manufacturing and distributing products; and trained female community health agents disseminating health and hygiene information through local programs.
G.A.M.E. (Girls Access Menstruation Education) functions on many levels: improving personal health issues, raising awareness and educational campaigning, as well as accessing political and cultural change for women and is unlike most projects shown at the RISE Exposition. The conference was originally designed to focus on the hard sciences and celebrate the work of engineers, chemists, and biologists at Northeastern. However, Dr. Chandler believed in championing a spot for the social sciences and highlighting the intersections between scientific research and social change. We are innovators too, and this Thursday this was seen. The G.A.M.E team placed as finalists, the top tier of the 182 presentations at the expose.
While the team did not eventually win an award, being recognized was exciting and important for them. “Research and innovation are often thought of as sectors dominated by traditional scientists so we were proud to interject our voices and hold our ground as social scientists and researchers. This field can be powerfully intersectional and the cross between research and social change is evident to us every day. We are excited at the opportunity to come at this presentation from a systems-change dimension and a unique, social-justice-oriented lens. Our team shook up the RISE stage talking pads, periods, and power and we thrilled to see what other students in CSSH and other colleges can bring in the future.” Shareeka Helaluddin added, “As a team consisted of primarily women of color, it is important to make our voices heard in a space where we have been historically excluded to show that we are making change and discovering connections as well.”