SCSU grad, fiance, hope to end widespread ‘period poverty’ in Zambia

SCSU grad, fiance, hope to end widespread ‘period poverty’ in Zambia


NEW HAVEN — Menstrual pads seem like a mundane product, but the lack of them in impoverished rural parts of Africa can lead to girls dropping out school, rushing into marriages, finding themselves in domestic violence situations and even jail, according to those working for change.

Rose Mutale, who was born and raised in Zambia and is a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, is passionate about changing that “trajectory.”

Mutale, who now is going to work toward a master’s degree, founded the nonprofit “For Her Pride,” which supplies menstrual and hygiene products to some girls in a school in rural Zambia, as well as education. The group also seeks to give girls visits to places outside their usual space to give them something to “aspire to,” she said.

Front left to right, Choongo Hamoonga and his fiance, Rose Mutale run a non-profit, “For Her Pride,” that provides education and personal products to girls in rural Zambia who don’t have access to sanitary napkins and other hygiene supplies.

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She knows all too well the humiliation of not having sanitary pads — and using tissues, cloth or other substandard products, even though she was raised in a more middle-class environment than the girls she serves.


In some cases they have only leaves and twigs to use during menstruation and it’s so embarrassing that girls end up missing five days of school a month or 15 days in a term and can’t keep up with the work. They also are lacking proper facilities — there are bathrooms without doors and nowhere to dispose of sanitary products, Mutale said.

It can spell self-esteem disaster.

Grades affected by missing school erodes confidence, makes it hard to catch up and reinforces stereotypes, she said.

Raised in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, Mutale moved to the United States in 2011 the day before she turned 19.

She traveled back and forth to Zambia since 2014 doing various charity work and donating money earned at her part-time jobs here.

The "For Her Pride" team in Lusaka attends the "Period Festival" in May of 2021, handing out menstrual hygiene products and information to the girls.

The “For Her Pride” team in Lusaka attends the “Period Festival” in May of 2021, handing out menstrual hygiene products and information to the girls.

Contributed photo /

Then, in 2017, she realized she wanted to settle on young girls and “interrupting” the cycle of abuse, domestic violence, poverty and other ills that come without an education.

“Education unlocks the doors,” she said. “In Zambia, the intergenerational poverty is staggering … It’s very difficult to have that class mobility in Zambia.”

Mutale, 29, hopes to make the organization her full-time endeavor after earning a master’s degree in health care administration and already has her fiancé, Choongo Hamoonga, by her side helping to run “For Her Pride.”

“We hope to reach all nine provinces and improve their facilities, so they can have a better menstrual experience and be able to dispose of the products in a sustainable way,” Mutale said. “Our mentorship part of the organization helps the girls identify their strengths and how they can build upon their skills and talents.”

Rose Mutale engages girls at a school in Zambia about their educational goals.  Mutale, founder of a non-profit that helps girls in poverty-ridden, rural areas of Zambia, recently graduated from Southern Connecticut State Unversity

Rose Mutale engages girls at a school in Zambia about their educational goals.  Mutale, founder of a non-profit that helps girls in poverty-ridden, rural areas of Zambia, recently graduated from Southern Connecticut State Unversity

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Hamoonga, whom she plans to marry in the fall, is general manager at a property development firm and holds a master’s degree in finance from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

He said Mutale’s leadership and passion for the cause are sure to lead to her objectives being met.

“I have been a part of the organization’s outreach programs so far and it is always heartwarming to see the hope on the faces of the young girls that we reach out to when we interact with them — that glimmer of hope, and the inspiration of being part of a wider vision keeps me motivated,” Hamoonga.

“Ending period poverty is a possibility and this will enable the young girls to be more confident about themselves and focus on their self-development in order to have a positive impact on their communities,” he said.

The focus of “For Her Pride” is ages 11-18 and Mutale hopes to end “the trajectory” and redirect the girls in a simple way with access to literature, a day at the park and other activities to motivate them to stay in school.

“Sometimes they drop out because maybe they feel the achievement gap between them and their male partners is too wide,” she said.

Rose Mutale talks to girls at a school in rural Zambia where she provides education and sanitary napkin supplies, as well as other hygiene products for girls in rural Zambia.

Rose Mutale talks to girls at a school in rural Zambia where she provides education and sanitary napkin supplies, as well as other hygiene products for girls in rural Zambia.

Contributed photo /

Boys often make fun of the girls when they have their period, she said.

“They leave school, end up in abusive marriages with three kids home,” Mutale said.

Mutale said women can even end up being jailed as a result of the dangerous cycle, such as a woman she visited in prison who accidentally killed her drunk, abusive husband by defending herself.

Part of the education is teaching women to see the signs of an abusive partner and to even help them understand HIV and AIDS as “so many men cheat” in the culture, she said. Another part of it is teaching women how to tolerate and help menstrual pain that can lead to school absences.

Through her part-time jobs, Mutale funds 30 girls monthly in Malala’s Primary School, a school of 150 girls and boys. The cost is $10 per girl.

That care package includes pads, deodorant and other toiletries.

Workshops were planned to teach girls how to make their own reusable pads, but canceled due to high rates of COVID-19.

She hopes to build the girls their own bathroom facility.

Although Mutale grew up middle class in the city, through family issues, she didn’t have access to menstrual products, she said, and it was “very humiliating.” She became more “introverted” and “timid” than she otherwise would have been, Mutale said.

“It was a really, really tough period,” Mutale said. “I always had hope and knew I would be in a better place. These girls (in rural areas) don’t have hope for that.”

She said the ultimate goal is to improve education outcomes for girls in Zambia.

“We hope to have more college educated girls and women, who would otherwise not be able to attain that level of education due to lack of access to basic needs,” Mutale said.

Hamoonga said he did not understand the negative impact of period poverty and the challenges faced by young girls as he was growing up.

“Being part of the organization has broadened my scope immensely regarding the issues surrounding period poverty. Men and boys in our communities need to be more informed about the role they can play in ending period poverty,” he said. “Women and girls definitely need us to step up and support them a lot more than we do.”

To donate, visit the For Her Pride website or mail donations in care of Mutale to 187 English St., New Haven, CT 06513.



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