A group of about 20 women who call themselves “Women of Hope” are associated with the PNG Lasallian Family office in Port Moresby.
This group has committed itself to providing hygiene packs to girls and a much smaller number of boys in schools in Papua New Guinea. The women all have a connection with the Lasallian mission through the support network offered by the Lasallian family, although most do not work in Lasallian schools in PNG. The project was undertaken in 2019 and again in 2020 with modifications being made to the rollout in 2020 project based on learnings from the 2019 project.
Teachers in PNG schools encounter students on a daily basis who lack access to basic hygiene items, exhibited by absences during menstrual cycles, body odour, poor hair quality as a result of infrequent washing, dirty clothing and dental decay. Poverty is an ever-present reality for many students, particularly those living apart from their parents or living in settlements or squatter areas. There are also occasionally some teachers who may be in need of hygiene support when they live in impoverished households as a result of marriage breakdown, abuse by spouses or large numbers of children and relatives (wantoks) to support.
The Women of Hope undertake the purchase, packing and distribution of hygiene packs under the direction of the PNG Lasallian Family Coordinator. The packs for females consist of sanitary products, underwear, toothpaste, laundry powder and bathing soap. The packs for males consist of underwear, bathing soap, laundry powder, toothpaste and shavers. Individual Women of Hope offer a support session to each young woman on matters of hygiene as most of the recipients do not have the support network offered by more stable family and financial situations. The recipients are identified by the Women of Hope who work in schools across PNG in consultation with their Principal.
This project is reliant on the ongoing support of partners who are committed to the health and welfare of youth, particularly young women. Funding for the project during 2019 and 2020 was received from La Salle International in Rome and yourtown in Australia. It is anticipated that the need for the hygiene packs will be greater during 2021 due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic in PNG and the impact that lockdowns have had on family incomes.