over the moon project

supporting access to education for girls in rural uganda

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De-stigmatizing Periods Starts at Home

We recently heard about a high school boy in Florida who started his own campaign to take the shame out of menstruation at his school. We think this kid has the right idea!


As the article notes:

In some parts of the world, strong stigmas around periods have consequences for women and girls that are far worse than a little embarrassment.

That’s exactly why Over the Moon’s mission is so important. It’s also why we joined WASH United’s partner network for Menstrual Hygiene Day.

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Juliet’s Birthday Manifesto

Here’s what Juliet had to say about her birthday on Facebook. Her beautiful words are worth re-posting any day of the year.

Today is my birthday. It also happens to be mother’s day! I woke up this morning and asked myself what example I want to set for my girls, especially those whose lives have been interrupted by many challenges and whose futures seem uncertain. I have been privileged to give life. I have also been privileged to have many mothers shape me– like the women in the village who chased us from the mango tree to go school, the neighbor who ensured that I did not play rough and hurt myself, the mothers union who ensured I had a relationship with God, and my own mother who sacrificed everything to ensure that I got the best education that she could afford.

I have received many blessings from you, my friends and family. I feel humbled and obliged to share these blessings. In Africa we say it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately these community values are dying out. Life has become a challenge, especially with the economic demands on every family. However, I believe that we all still have a role to play in different capacities.

God blessed women with the capacity to give life… From puberty a girl’s fate begins to manifest, in Lango we call this “seeing the moon” neno dwe. While it is an exciting moment for some young girls as it symbolizes their womanhood, it is also the beginning of a major challenge for the majority, especially in the rural areas. Most girls are not prepared for what awaits them and are further confused by their peers who also know little about sexuality. Many girls drop out of school because they lack sanitary wear. Some are forced to use toilet paper and rugs and suffer severe burns. Consequently they find it more convenient to stay home. Surely this should not be happening in this modern day and times. Together with my friend Gillian, with whom I share a birthday, we have started the Over the Moon Project to help eliminate menstrual absenteeism in primary school. I strongly believe that each of us has a purpose and a role to play in our different capacities. By donating to this cause you shall make my birthday!

Many wonderful people answered Juliet’s call and helped make our birthday special. If you have not yet donated, we still need your help. Please fulfill your role in our collective mission to support the Akiya girls today!

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Thank You for Making Our Birthday So Happy!

thank-you-cropWe’ve been blown away by all the birthday love we’ve received from donors to our launch campaign over the past few days!

We are so grateful to all of you– our friends, family, and even supporters we’ve never met– for your incredible generosity. You all made our birthday so special. Thanks to you, we can help the Akiya girls stay in school, where they belong.

Today we reached 50% of our overall fundraising goal! That’s a major milestone; but it also means we are so close to getting the first delivery underway. With just $600 more, we will have enough funding to make our first complete delivery of pads to the girls! Can you help us close the gap today?

Juliet & Gillian

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Why Gillian Got Involved

Juliet made a strong first impression during our August fellowship orientation when our director Jill Morrison passed around a list of fellows’ birthdays and one date jumped out at me. Out of eleven women, two of us shared the same birthday–“May 10: Gillian Chadwick & Juliet Hatanga.”

As I learned more about her, our shared birthday became the least interesting thing about Juliet– a Ugandan magistrate judge with a record of applying human rights principles in her cases. Not long after we met, Juliet told me that she regularly visits prisons back in Uganda to educate inmates about their rights, and because, as she says, “if I’m going to send someone to prison, I must know where I am sending them.” (I agree.)

juliet and gillian cropped

Outside D.C. Superior Court–Juliet shadowed me for the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program’s “Take a LAWA  Fellow to Work Day”

As I became friends with Juliet, we bonded over our shared commitment to the struggle against gender discrimination, oppression, and violence. I told her about my work in the Domestic Violence Clinic; and we talked about case strategies and court procedures. She shared a bit about her background– how she was separated from her parents and raised by her grandmother in Lira during the Ugandan civil war.

Juliet also began telling me about her efforts to keep girls in school back in her village. Juliet explained that she’d visited her primary school and noticed girls were dropping out at higher rates as they reached adolescence. Always logical in her approach, Juliet began to investigate. She discovered that one of the main challenges for the girls was a lack of reliable feminine hygiene products.

Juliet told me how she’d gone about addressing the issue by providing pads herself. Although she hadn’t been able to keep up with the need, her dream was to provide enough pads to all the girls so that they could stay in school.

When I learned all this, I knew I had to help. I saw an opportunity to leverage my skills and drive to create a project that could help make Juliet’s dream for the Akiya girls a reality. I began researching the issue and drafting a plan, which would become the Over the Moon Project.

As I researched, I started to understand the scope of this problem. I was moved by stories of girls unable to attend school for lack of proper hygiene supplies. I came across many heartbreaking accounts like this one:

“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes… Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” – Joan Anyango, a 16-year-old student in Ayito primary school in Lira (source: The Guardian)

I believe social programs must be directly informed and driven by the communities they will affect. As such, Juliet and I developed this project in consultation with community and school leaders in Lira. Our local partner made a special visit to Akiya school and spoke directly to the girls about their needs. We identified a local Ugandan vendor with a social enterprise mission and a wealth of experience working on menstrual hygiene issues in Ugandan communities.

Why did I get involved with this project? With all the challenges in our world, sometimes it’s hard to know what we can do to make a difference. That’s why this small concrete project is so exciting to me. We are going to put high-quality washable pads directly into the hands of girls who truly need them starting this summer. If we meet our fundraising goal, we will be able to provide 8 pads to each girl, giving them enough protection to allow them focus on their studies instead of worrying about having an accident and being embarrassed.

I got involved in this project because I wanted to make a difference for the Akiya girls. You can make a difference too!

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The Power of Your Support


photo credit: Catie Corbin

As you think about whether to support the project, please consider how Over the Moon could use your donation:

  • $10 would cover the cost of one set of 8 reusable menstrual pads designed to last for at least one year, allowing one girl to focus on her studies without fear of embarrassment from menstrual accidents.
  • $15 would cover one set of pads plus proper underwear, which girls need in order to use the pads.
  • $50 could provide pads for five girls!
  • $150 could provide ten girls with pads and underwear, covering them for at least one year.
  • $200 would cover pads for 20 girls, or the cost of educational materials and books to provide all Akiya girls with year-round access to information on menstrual hygiene, sexual health education, and gender empowerment.
  • $400 would cover the courier and transportation cost of one delivery of pads and underwear from Kampala to Akiya school or $450 could provide pads and underwear to 30 girls!

We have worked hard to ensure that your donations will have the maximum impact on the Akiya girls. All personnel involved with this project are volunteering their time. Our single largest cost, accounting for more than 96% of our budget, is the purchase and delivery of the pads, underwear, and educational materials/books.

How many Akiya girls can you help?  Please donate today!

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WASH United Welcomes Over the Moon as a Menstrual Hygiene Day Partner!

Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as Menstrual Hygiene Day! Why? Because menstrual hygiene is a global human rights issue!

Menstruation carries significant stigma and brings challenges that affect the lives of women and girls around the world in terms of education, employment, health, and emotional wellbeing. Girls in Uganda face particular challenges related to menstruation.

Over the Moon is proud to be an official partner of Mentrual Hygiene Day 2015, and we are grateful to WASH United for welcoming us to the network. We’re working to improve menstrual hygiene for girls in Lira district and you can help!

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Why Catie Got Involved

Board member Catie Corbin talks about why she got involved:

Girls in Uganda

photo credit: Catie Corbin

In 2007, I took my first of what would become many trips to East Africa. I traveled to Uganda to work with young families and school children who were displaced from their homes and living in camps. It did not take long for me to fall in love with Uganda – with the colors, with the songs, with the dance, and with the smiles of the children. The Ugandans I met were very loving and quickly welcomed me into their country and into their villages. I visited many schools all around Lira, where the Over the Moon project is based. The young girls who I met in school were so full of life and had such high expectations for themselves. They worked hard in school, on top of caring for younger siblings and doing many chores for the benefit of their family.

It is hard to imagine that some of these vivacious girls might not return to school when they start menstruating. They may start by missing a few days, but then they might miss a few weeks. Their confidence begins to fall and so will their learning.

For 10 years now, I have worked in education in developing countries around the world. I believe not only that education can lead to better opportunities and social and financial stability for individuals and families, but also that learning makes people genuinely happy. Without learning, people lose hope. If these special girls drop out of school, how will their vision of their futures change? How will their dreams change? When these girls are empowered to make the choice to stay in school, and when the barriers of embarrassment are broken down – there is no telling what these wonderful girls will do.

Uganda5 (1)

Catie with students at a rural school in Uganda

In this globalized world, it is important for each of us to do our part in making sure each and every person has the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. That is why I support Over the Moon. Please help in giving girls that chance.

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Word from Our Partner in Lira

We recently heard from Ms. Betty Olet from the Lango Development Forum, who will assist in the delivery of pads and workshops at Akiya Primary School. Betty just visited Akiya and here is what she reported back:

Dear Gillian,

I am so happy to learn that you are joining hands with Juliet to raise funds for the girl child in our home area. The project you have chosen is a very good one and I can assure you that the need is great. In an hour long interaction with the students, I got first hand information on how difficult their situation is…

I would like to appreciate what you are intending to do to improve the lives of these young girls. They were so excited about the prospect of receiving sanitary pads and panties. These are items we never imagine living without but these girls go without them and this usually puts their lives on hold for the duration of the period. I pray that you will one day visit the school to comprehend the magnitude of what you are doing for them… May all that you wish for come true and May the Lord bless your efforts…

Yours sincerely,


Thank you, Betty, for your dedication to this project. Please lend your support today!

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Understanding the Problem of Menstrual Absenteeism

Menstruation is a natural part of life and a common experience for women and girls around the world. Many of us are privileged enough that our time of the month is nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  But practical concerns, in addition to shame and stigma, make menstruation a serious challenge and a barrier to education for girls in Lira district in northern Uganda.

Without the proper sanitary supplies, girls are fearful of staining their clothes and being mocked by boys. Instead, they stay home and miss out on class and exams, which puts them at risk of falling behind and eventually dropping out of school. A 2013 study by a Dutch aid group indicated that half of Ugandan school girls reported missing 1-3 days of school per month due to menstruation. That means girls are missing up to 24 school days per year. Accumulating menstrual absences make it harder for girls to stay in school at the same rate as boys, as Juliet herself observed at Akiya.

An article from the Guardian shed some light on the situation, quoting Lira girls in their own words:

“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes… Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” – Joan Anyango, a 16-year-old student in Ayito primary school in Lira

“When I started menstruating, I had many hard days,” she says. “I could not get myself any materials to use to stop myself from soiling my clothes. It was better for me to stay at home rather than go through that shame at school.” – Auma Milly, Lira district, had to repeat a year at primary school after she missed her final exams because of her period

Various aid groups have undertaken a range of approaches to the problem, but a comprehensive solution has yet to be reached. One day, we hope to see universal access to wash facilities and sanitary supplies so that women and girls are free from the constraints of menstruation. In the mean time, we’ve created Over the Moon because the girls of Akiya Primary School deserve immediate access to reliable menstrual pads so they can focus on their studies instead of worrying about menstrual woes. We designed the project based on input from the community and local leaders so that it best meets the needs of the girls.

You can help by donating today!