A local woman is empowering women in East Africa by educating them about their menstrual cycle. Born and raised in Kemptville, Sabrina Rubli started Femme International in 2013 after learning about the taboo around menstruation that is prevalent in Kenyan and Tanzanian culture. “They are taught that their period is unclean,” Sabrina explains. “They don’t go to school, drink the same water, or eat the same food as everyone else when they are on their period.”
Sabrina and her team of 11 work in both Kenya and Tanzania to educate girls, boys, women and men about menstruation and take away some of the stigma associated with it. They also distribute reusable sanitary products to make sure girls feel comfortable going to school, and to ease some of the financial burden. Sabrina says there are a million things to be done in terms of female empowerment in East Africa, but she believes teaching them about menstruation is a good start. “At least they won’t stop going to school,” she says.
Sabrina has found that the girls she has worked with are very interested and eager to learn. “They have lots of questions.” It’s the women and men she’s worked with that are more embarrassed to talk about it, because they have been living with the stigma their whole lives. Femme International has reached 10,000 girls since 2013, and they are hoping to double their reach this year. This is a lofty goal, but one that Sabrina is hopeful they will reach. “We have a really strong team, and have laid the groundwork and have presence in the communities,” she says.
Femme International will be holding a fundraiser on Sunday, May 7, at Maplewood Hall in Oxford Mills. The event will be an afternoon tea, with entertainment by local group Bella Borealis. There will also be a silent auction, and tea and baked goods for sale. Sabrina will be on hand to give a short presentation about Femme International and answer any questions people have about their work. Tickets are $10 and the money raised will be going towards purchasing reusable sanitary products for women and girls in East Africa.