This year students in Advice Project Media's Uppity Witches class studied witch hunts in Papua New Guinea, Europe, Tanzania, Cameroon, India, Haiti, and the USA. They learned about the third degree, a popular method of harsh questioning to obtain confessions from accused witches. These "witches" have traditionally been deemed of no societal use because they don't subscribe to patriarchal norms - many of them, for example, are unmarried or widowed. Students were horrified to learn that even when women and girls (and people in the LGTBQ+A community and people of color) aren't called witches, they still often receive the third degree in courts of law and by the media (certain campus rape cases, for example), and also are stereotyped based on their perceived gender or race. Girls are also silenced because of cultural taboos. In Cameroon, for example, many girls aren't able to go to school during their menstrual period because they are deemed dirty or simply don't have access to sanitary supplies. This means that girls miss on average of four days per month of school, which amounts to more than a month per year. Many girls then fall behind or drop out of school, which perpetuates the poor treatment of an entire gender.
Students in the Uppity Witches class weren't satisfied with learning about the problems - they also wanted to focus on solutions and combat menstrual taboos in Cameroon. To do this, they partnered with Marie-claire Nabila Kuja, a strong Cameroonian advocate for women and girls who sits on the Advice Project Media advisory board. Marie-claire founded both KujaPads, an initiative that collects menstrual pads to send to girls living in Cameroon, and also the subsequent One Million Pads for Progress campaign.
One of our students, Nia, made a box to collect pads at Different Directions, the center in New York City where we hold class. Two other students, Katherine and Alexander, donated a whopping 700 individually wrapped pads to send to Cameroon. This summer, Marie-claire will distribute these pads during menstrual hygiene education workshops in schools and orphanages. Advice Project Media's founder, Melissa, will also return to this beautiful West African country and is looking forward to seeing One Million Pads for Progress in action!