Girl Boss. Period.

In Congo, women and girls show all new meaning to the word “strength.” They work non-stop—cooking, cleaning, and child rearing—all without electricity or running water! They also have very limited access to basic amenities like soap, lack variety in their cooking or diet, and are without other basic household items.

They are my heroes.

So do you ever wonder, in the middle of the jungle, what girls do while they’re on their period? They can’t just run to the store and pick up a pack of tampons.

As a part of our WaSH program, we train girls and women how to stay clean and safe during their monthly cycle.

This month, I loved getting to sit in on the training. Here are some golden moments from our trainees during the lessons:

"When you look down and you see your period for the first time, you can be proud! You can say—‘I am a woman. I am courageous. I can carry children!’ Having your period is not a shameful thing. Talking about your period is not a shameful thing. You must be proud of who you are!”

It’s estimated that one in ten girls miss school because of their period. By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year. (UNESCO / World Bank)

"See, you must be courageous as a woman. Courageous and clean. You are so special with all the things your body can do. You must make sure to take care of it. Make your pads and don't let it hold you back. Don't let it keep you out of school."

Instead of instructing our girls to buy pads, which are expensive and often hard to find in the villages, our trainers teach them how to make their own pads out of things they can find in the market.

It usually involves a small, inexpensive piece of mattress/sponge-like material, fabric, and string to sew with. They make their own reusable pad out of a pattern we give them. During the lesson we also give them everything they need to make their first pad, including needle and thread!

"Water is your best friend when you have your period. What's your best friend?”


This was stressed many times throughout the training. Many girls don’t know how to properly clean themselves during their cycles, either. It’s usually shameful to discuss, so women don’t talk to each other about it. They don’t talk about it with their daughters, and when their cycle arrive, they just stay home and wait until it passes.

“Now that you know how to make your pads, you can wear it knowing you are protected! You can go to school. You can go to the fields. There is no need to miss anything! If you ever need help, you can courageously talk to your female teachers, or other girls in this groupwe are all in this together!”

It was actually really incredible watching our team work. They crossed into culturally uncharted territories, and every girl in the class loved it, and hung on every word they said.

In Congo, it’s also very difficult to go to school if you are girl, and there is a clear discrepancy when it comes to literacy education. The literacy rate for girls sits at just 50%, while the literacy rate for boys in the DRC is nearly 80%. Teaching girls about something as simple as how to take care of their bodies while on their periods can help keep girls in school throughout the year and lowers dropout rates as they grow older.

At the end of the women’s health and safety classes, we also gave each participant a new pair of underwear, and a package of Kotex with instructions for how to use them. In our group for child mothers, many had never been taught this before. Some girls already had one, two or even three children, and yet, they had never previously discussed their periods or basic care and hygiene during their cycle!

We are so proud of our team’s boldness and the work they continue to do with respects to women’s health and girls’ education. Period.

And I Stop.

It’s 7am. I sit at my computer with a cup of tea and a box of tissues, listening to TED talks and Christmas music, catching up on emails from the other side of the world.

My heart is a mess, though not necessarily in a bad way. A mix between being completely inspired for the future, oddly pensive for the present and yet slightly devastated with the past. (raw moment, stay with me)

Most mornings lately, I wake up with a message in my inbox about beheadings, people being set on fire and “…hacked to death, worse than animals.”

No joke. It’s not a random newsfeed or the BBC, but emails from my family in Congo. They’re heartbroken and confused. “AGAIN!? We fear for our lives AGAIN.” I stop for a moment and let my heart feel, tears running down my cheeks. This isn’t a statistic, a movie, these are real people and this isn’t right.

It’d be easy for me to read it, reply a quick, sympathetic yet comforting email and go on with my day. But instead I stop. To give honor to the innocent. For those who unjustly lost their lives to a blade. For the millions living in war everyday, leaving their belongings to run for safety. I stop.


This morning before my early cup of tea I lay in bed with my husband (because I have one of those now!) reading the email and then writing and rewriting Instagram posts I was trying to concoct to attempt to communicate the war happening right now. How can I be their voice? Everything I typed sounded too cliché. I was terrified that people would read the phrase “children beheaded” wince and pass on as quickly as possible, not actually thinking who that child was or how their death affected their family.

But my mind raced: “How can I communicate that this child had dreams!? They had a mom who loved them and made them breakfast every morning. They had a few goats that THEY were in charge of herding and bringing to a small patch of grass. They had favorite pass times and were never late for school.”

Feeling flustered for a moment, I ended up settling for a more uplifting post. Something without the word “hacked”.

But it still sits with me. How can we share Micheal’s story, Emmanuel’s, Juliette’s? All students in our schools. All waking up not knowing if it will be their last morning to see the sun rise.

I refuse to sit with that and believe that I am powerless to do anything.

Justice Rising builds schools in conflict zones to reach children and shift the situation for the current generation and generations to come.

So between emails I watch this. An inspiring TED talk communicating again, the epic importance of education and how it’s a game changer in war zones.

"All refugee children tell us education is the most important thing in their lives. Why? Because it allows them to think of their future rather than the nightmare of their past. It allows them to think of hope rather than hatred"

“Hope rather than hatred”

To give education is to give love. To give peace.

To be a Peace Movement, so we don’t just watch history unfold, but we take a part in writing it.

SO, as my second week in my journey of weekly blogs…. I give you this; the talk that made me pace the floor and write this post.

I hope it stirs you the same way it did me.


Melissa Fleming: