Imagine losing your chance at an education, self-sufficiency and a decent quality of life … just because you’re a girl.
Across the world, millions of young women and girls find their schooling forcibly halted once they start puberty because of a simple lack of access to basic feminine hygiene products. It’s a stark reality many face, and one that students at the St Teresa of Avilla Catholic School are hoping to challenge with their cleverly titled fundraiser, Not a Latte.
The 18-member We Team at the school decided, when they learned of the problem, to do something about it by partnering with the international Days for Girls campaign. The team explains they will be raising money through Not a Latte that will go towards providing girls in the developing world with the supplies they need to continue their education.
“I think it’s important to me because I feel like a lot of us girls in Canada, we kind of take for granted that we’re allowed to go to school when we’re on our periods and we have all the supplies that we need,” says student and team member Natalie.
“While in other countries there’s girls who are forced to not get an education they want and have to go straight into work and they lose their childhood.”
The group is raising money to send a number of kits filled with essential products to girls across the world. It costs $150 to send a suitcase of 50 kits, but the group has set a goal to raise $225, and whatever money isn’t used to send suitcases will be put towards the costs of creating even more kits. The kits themselves are designed to lasts up to two years, essentially giving the recipients another two years of education that they would otherwise have lost.
“Education is vital for people to have a future, and I really think that it is unfair that so many people could not have a future and live up to the full potential … just because of a natural thing that happens to all girls,” says Kassidy, another student. “So I think this will give them an opportunity to really live up to their full potential.”
“The thing is once they hit their period and they don’t have a kit, their education is over,” points out Jaimee. “So it’s not just the two years they won’t get back, it’s the rest of their life.”
The team has come up with an interesting way to raise the through the group’s Not a Latte fundraiser, which, besides emphatically stating that there will be no lattes, is also a play on the words, ‘not a lot, eh?’
The team created a menu like something that would be found at a local cafe, that people can ‘order’ their usual drink off: coffee, latte, what have you.
“So you basically pay for the drink that you would normally get, but instead of actually getting the drink all the money goes towards the campaign. So it’s instead of getting a latte, you like get ‘a lot, eh?’” explains Natalie.
For the not a lot (eh?) price of a cup of coffee, or several, customers can instead give a lot by supporting their sisters in developing world continue their educations.
The team say they are targeting women and girls with their fundraiser, but men and boys too can find a common cause in tackling gender inequality.
“I find unfair that boys get to go to school and they can get a job and they can do whatever they want. But girls, they used to not be able to vote, they used to not be able to go to school, and on top of that they don’t get to go to school because of things that happen to them naturally,” notes Jordyn.
St. Teresa principal Amy Flynn commends the students’ taking the initiative and says the school is happy to support them.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. It was their idea,” says principal Flynn. “They could relate. They knew this was something that girls should be provided with, that girls should have the education and they wanted to do something make a difference.
“I think the big thing is that this is something that our students themselves are saying is important to them, so it’s their voice that we want to respect and hear,” she says.
For many students, it’s the first they’ve heard of the problem, and they’re hoping they can bring more attention to it.
“Well, before I joined this I had no clue that this was a problem, so I’m glad I’ve heard of it now and that other people will recognize what’s going on to these other girls in these other countries,” says student Avery.
The team will be accepting donations through until 26 Feb. People can drop off donations at the office in an envelope which is clearly marked with ‘Not a Latte.’ Individuals can also donate to the Not a Latte fundraiser through the school’s website at www.stteresaelmira.wcdsb.ca
According to the Days for Girls website, one in ten girls in sub-Saharan Africa, 113 million adolescents in India and 30 per cent of rural Brazilians will miss school this year due to menstruation. The group works in some 110 countries, and has reached more than one million women and girls through their efforts.