grade 12 students at Telefomin Secondary school during a workshop
Photo by Mandy Glass
A powerful initiative is transforming the lives of young women in isolated communities, giving them confidence to stay in school.
Story by Mandy Glass

Access to basic menstrual health products is both limited and expensive in the remote regions of Papua New Guinea. At Telefomin Secondary School, the recent menstrual health workshop, organised by MAF’s Siobhain Cole has significantly tackled this issue, making a profound difference in the lives of Grade 12 girls and their teachers.

The initiative, which provided education and reusable menstrual health kits, was met with enthusiasm. 

Mavis Oggi, a teacher, noted, “When you gave out the kits, I was really eager to use it. It was kind of exciting.”

Before we had these sessions, girls were not attending lessons because they don't have those pads. Now I see that most of them are coming to the classes. As a teacher, I'm very happy about this.
Roanna Metengim, Teacher Telefomin Secondary School

The workshops not only provided practical solutions but also reinforced existing knowledge about periods.

“When we went through this session they were smiling because they got some of the information already,” said Roanna Metengim, another teacher.

For many students, the reusable kits were a game-changer. 

Helincy Rumat, a Grade 12 student, shared, “It was something new. I used it and it's very nice... it's normal for me to walk around.” 

Helincy Rumat

Elma Mambu added, “Last time you gave us out the new kits, it's very comfortable and it's nice.”

Both students and teachers realised the significant economic benefits. 

“It really helped us, especially economic wise by reducing the cost of buying those things,” said Roanna.

This allowed students to save money for other essentials. 

“Here in Telefomin, it’s a very hard place for me to live, and sometimes I’ll save my money for equipment or materials for my school needs,” explained Stina Boyosep.

Stina Boyosep

The workshops also improved school attendance. 

“Before we had these sessions, girls were not attending lessons because they don't have those pads. Now I see that most of them are coming to the classes. As a teacher, I'm very happy about this,” said Roanna.

The confidence and comfort provided by the kits were highlighted by students. 

“Going to wear these things, I never see any kinds of stain wherever I go,” Stina said.

“At first, I was afraid I might see a stain. So I didn’t come to school. But in the evening, I realised there is no stain. So, the next day, I came,” Elma said.

Elma Mambu

The provision of the reusable sanitary kits positively impacts the environment and health by reducing waste and promoting hygiene.

"We don't have an incinerator. Sometimes, we just burn it in the open, which is not very healthy," Mavis explained. 

These kits eliminate the need for such harmful practices, providing a sustainable solution and improving menstrual health. They help the girls focus on education without worrying about disposal issues.

Mavis Oggi and Roanna Metengim
Photo by Mandy Glass

The supply of the reusable sanitary kits rely on support from a network of donors worldwide, whose contributions make this initiative possible. 

Helincy expressed gratitude for the support from overseas, “It’s comfortable for me to wear. And we say thank you for that, for helping us.”

The workshops at Telefomin Secondary School have proven to address a practical need, empowering young women, improving school attendance, and providing economic relief in such a remote area. 

Meanwhile, Siobhain also facilitated workshops for the grade 11, hoping to complete grade 10 and grade 9 by September.