Being #JustAGirl in Bulamu

EVENT: VISIT TO BULAMU, KAMPALA | AUTHOR: IRENA PISTUN | 7 NOVEMBER 2016

Traveling to Retrak’s girls centre Bulamu in Kampala with a team of volunteers from Greater Manchester Police last week was always going to be emotional, but what we didn’t expect is the shockingly simple help that would change the girls’ lives in Bulamu right now; in fact it was so simple we kicked ourselves for not knowing the girls’ day-to-day sanitary difficulties.

For girls forced to live on the street, it really is that dreaded time of the month. With limited or no access to sanitary products, they’re often forced to go without. We thought we could make the girls’ periods easier to manage by providing masses of sanitary pads. But when the GMP team delivered them last week the managers went instead for the soaps, wipes and deodorants, leaving the pads behind. Why leave them? We didn’t understand until the staff explained the dilemma they faced.

The centre manager told us that, of the 30 or so girls in Bulamu that day, just four of the girls had one pair of pants. The rest had none; they didn’t arrive with any underwear at all. And, unless someone provided them, they would not have any pants during their stay at Bulamu. At the centre, cloth serves when there is little else but when there are sanitary pads available it is a travesty that such items can’t be used. Without pants sanitary pads are useless.

Periods can be painful and a source of embarrassment even with the necessary sanitary products, I cannot imagine how these young girls navigate the stresses of a period on the street, or in police remand centres. No girl should face the indignity or humiliation of dealing with their period, without essential sanitary items.

This month Bulamu’s current funding ends and the already stretched services are under threat. Retrak no longer has an adequate source of funding to cover the £5,500 per month operational costs to run the centre. We need your support to ensure that girls have access to the services they need. Please support our crowdfunding appeal here just £15 can help us provide girls at Bulamu with the underwear and sanitary pads they desperately need each month.

Thank you.