Pass the Mic – Pendo Daudi, Menstrual Health Advocate

23 May 2024

Menstrual health is defined as the complete physical, mental, and social well-being in relation to the menstrual cycle. This definition reflects the various ways in which menstruation affects women’s lives, and their ability to properly manage their menstrual health. 

Menstrual health, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are fundamentally intertwined. Both share similar goals of improving health and well-being and increasing gender equality. Achieving menstrual health is crucial for women and gender diverse people to be able to enjoy equality, rights, and dignity. 

That is why, for the Menstrual Hygiene Day edition of our Pass the Mic series, we are featuring Pendo Daudi, an advocate for menstrual health and the founder of the Women and Children Welfare Support Association in Tanzania. 

Every day, millions of women and gender diverse people around the world struggle to manage their menstruation safely, effectively, and with dignity. As a young girl, Pendo struggled too which led her to become an advocate for menstrual health. Learn more about Pendo’s journey through this interview.

Who is Pendo Daudi?  

My name is Pendo Daudi. I was born in Tanzania, but I currently live in the UK due to my husband’s work. I am the founder and CEO of an organisation called the Women and Children Welfare Support Association, which is based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. 

When I was younger, I admired people who worked with the community. Seeing people facing difficulties always troubled me, and I wanted to help. This led me to study population and development. 

I began my career as a project manager with organisations dedicated to supporting women, children, and youth. In 2015, I decided to start my own organisation to support girls struggling to menstruate with dignity, and without stigma. 

Why menstrual health?  

I wasn’t raised in a wealthy family, and we always struggled to buy menstrual products. We often had to forgo other necessities to afford menstrual supplies. 

I still remember my first menstruation. I was in primary school and had no idea what was happening to me. I was scared and told my mother. She didn’t explain much; she just gave me what almost every girl used back then—a piece of old cloth—and explained how to use it. 

However, I frequently stained myself, which led to me not wanting to go to school or play outside during my period, as boys would laugh at me. This meant I spent five days a month hiding at home, missing school and my childhood. 

In my culture, parents don’t talk to their children about periods or provide any form of sexual health education. They avoid the topic because they associate menstruation with sex and believe that discussing it will encourage girls to engage in sexual activity. Most of the stigma is driven by misinformation. When girls and boys understand that menstruation is a normal process, they are less likely to shame others. This stigma around menstruation perpetuates many aspects of gender inequality. That’s why I am dedicated to helping other girls avoid the shame and hardship associated with period poverty. 


What is period poverty?  

Period poverty is about the lack of access to period products as well as not having access to clean water, safe toilets, and/or adequate information about menstruation. Additionally, it encompasses the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma.  

The lack of education and access to information is a major driver of this stigma. It can lead to numerous issues, such as girls missing school and eventually dropping out, child marriages, reduced participation of women in the local economy, and the perpetuation of gender inequalities. 


How and when did you decide to start an NGO?  

When I was in college and later in my first job as a project manager, we conducted research and worked with rural communities near Dodoma, Tanzania. I saw firsthand how people struggled with period poverty, something I deeply identified with. It was heart-wrenching to see girls missing school due to the lack of period products and the stigma and bullying they faced when they stained themselves. 

I encouraged the organisations I worked with, first a local one and then a national one, to introduce education about menstruation and support communities with menstrual products and other necessities to manage their periods. However, I felt this was not enough. 

I went back to my boss to explain the situation, but due to limited funding, access remained restricted. I wanted to expand our efforts and do whatever I could to continue supporting these girls. My passion drove me to start my own initiative. 

In 2017, I began this project. It has been a slow process, not always easy, but always worth it. 


What does Women and Children Welfare Support Association (WCWSA) do? 

We undertake various initiatives aimed at improving menstrual health. We distribute menstrual products in schools and educate both boys and girls on menstruation and puberty. Our goal is to create an understanding among young people about menstruation—what it is, why girls experience it, and why boys should be aware of it. This knowledge enables boys to support their sisters, future wives, friends, and anyone in need. We strive to establish a safe space where taboos can be broken, and the stigma surrounding menstruation and sexual and reproductive health generally can be eliminated. 

Initially, we provided disposable menstrual products, but we soon recognised several issues. First, the environmental impact, as many communities lacked proper disposal methods. We also realised that in some contexts, girls were not using disposable products properly for religious reasons. In Zanzibar, where our project started, the majority Muslim community faced restrictions on disposing of blood with these products, leading to girls washing disposable pads. As a result, we decided to start making reusable pads. 

We now employ local girls from the community to manufacture menstrual pads, providing them with financial independence and enabling us to distribute menstrual management packs in schools. 

Addressing misinformation is another key aspect of our work. Midwives are great supporters of this endeavor. Two to three times a year, we organise community gatherings with mothers, midwives, and healthcare professionals to discuss menstruation and sexual and reproductive health, the importance of parents talking to their children about it, and how to break taboos. Although involving fathers and other community members has proven more challenging, it remains a goal. 

We are also tackling more complex and systemic issues, such as ensuring proper water and sanitation, and creating safe spaces for women to manage their menstruation. In many schools, boys and girls share bathrooms, and there is no place for girls to change and wash their sanitary pads. Addressing these issues is difficult and requires significant funding. 

In addition to our menstrual health initiatives, we also engage in activities not directly related to menstruation. We are building the capacity of local communities through training committees to empower women within rural societies and ensure the sustainability of all our projects. We consult and provide education on environmental issues, such as climate change, and offer incentives to encourage sustainable practices. Additionally, we are forging alliances with men and other networks dedicated to promoting women’s empowerment and emancipation.  

A volunteer teaching a young student about menstruation and menstrual products
WCWSA uses aprons to interactively teach boys and girls about their anatomy

Why do you partner with midwives for your activities?  

We partner with midwives because they play a crucial role in the community. Midwives are trusted figures who have deep relationships and influence within local communities, especially among women and girls. They are often the first point of contact for health-related issues, especially sexual and reproductive health. 

Midwives’ involvement in our initiatives is vital because they can help bridge the gap in knowledge and understanding about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. They are well-positioned to provide accurate information, dispel myths, and break down the stigma surrounding menstruation. Their trusted status enables them to engage effectively with community members, including mothers and young girls, encouraging open discussions and education about menstrual health. 

Midwives are key people in the community. They are trusted and relied upon, especially by women and girls. They have the ability to influence positive change in the community. I encourage midwives to continue their amazing work and use their trusted position to educate and empower the community, particularly on issues like menstrual health. 


What are your greatest challenges at the moment?   

Funding has been the greatest issue since the start. We need to find stable and sustainable funding to continue working and to expand our impact. 

I want to do a lot more than just distributing products and providing education. I also want to address deep-rooted issues like water and sanitation. 

In Zanzibar, we still face challenges regarding clean water. I am working closely with the government and other organizations to address this issue. Unfortunately, I do not have sufficient funds to bring clean water to villages or schools. I can only do what is within my current financial means. 


What’s your hope for the future?  

My dream is that every girl has access to period products, clean water, safe toilets, and comprehensive information about menstruation. I envision a future where the stigma surrounding menstruation is reduced in communities, enabling girls to freely engage in their activities, participate fully in their education, and pursue their dreams.

Are you interested in learning more about menstrual health?

Menstrual Rights Global, an organisation Pendo collaborates with, is driving and diversifying the global menstrual health narrative, and highlighting how menstruation drives or hinders the life cycle of women and gender-diverse people across the life course.