Lori Ashley is the MD of Pad-Up Africa and is a woman on a mission to ensure young girls across Africa have access to menstrual hygiene products. She founded Paid-Up Africa in 2017 and has been able to provide menstrual hygiene products for lots of young girls. It has be found that one out of ten girls in sub-Sahara Africa misses school due to menstruation, which is why Pad-Up Africa through sanitary sensitization has continued to device practical ways to change the narrative within the shortest possible time. Let’s get to learn more about the beautiful woman behind Pad-Up Africa.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Ashley Olachi Lori, I’m a sociologist, an advocate for education as a means to conquer poverty, gender inequality and sanitation especially of the most marginalized group of people that is the women and girls in our society.
Why did you choose to focus on Menstrual health?
My passion was initially centered around ending period poverty in commemorating with the 6th United Nation SDG goals under ‘Wash’ water, sanitation and hygiene. However, the root of this passion was from when I was a child. I was 9 years old when my period started, I never noticed the blood stains all over my clothes, but my overly protective mum did.
Instantly, she thought I had been abused. After flogging me, she changed my clothes, bundled me into the car and off we went to the hospital to see a medical doctor. After thorough examination, the doctor said to her “Your daughter is ok, she has just had her first menstruation”. With a huge sigh of relief, we went home. At that point, my elder brother stepped in. He padded me up with loads of tissue paper.
The sizes of the rolls of tissue made me walk in a funny way. On several occasion, the tissue paper drops on the floor and I run away from it. This continued for a while until I found my way around. Then one day many years later as I was driving pass a school in Jahi and saw a group of 4 girls clustering around a tree with with newspaper stain with blood, I got worried and thought maybe someone was injured so I got from my car and asked if they needed help and one of them said no, she is just changing her pad I was like wow, you mean you use newspaper as an alternative of sanitary pads she said yes, even nylon, dried goat poop placed on a leaf or ashes because it absorbs better, I literally cried and hugged them took them to a near by supermarket and got them a pack of pads each. This incident gave me so much concern and motivated me to want to create more impact by solving this problem called “period poverty”.
Today, my team and I are determined never to allow young schoolgirls pass through this route like I did. This is the reason why we do what we do. We have given more than 18000 sanitary pads to girls in rural community schools and we have taken it to a more sustainable level were we teach women how to manufacture reusable sanitary pads that can last for 2 years and gift to the girls in their community schools while they sell and make end means.With the support of donors and partners, we have sensitised and donated free sanitary pads to over 500 reusable to schoolgirls in Nigeria since we started in 2017. Guess what? We have not even started. For more information or enquiries regarding our projects, you can send a mail to email@example.com or visit www.padupafrica.org
Apart from menstrual hygiene you are also drawn to people living with disability, tell us about that.
I was drawn to the people living with disability because on an outreach my attention was drawn by a blind girl who asked me if it was okay for someone to put their finger in your private part to check if you are menstruating before they can help you wear your sanitary pads. This person took advantage of her lack of sight to abuse her. This made me very sad and stirred up a need to advocate against molestation of people living with disability who are many times taken undue advantage of.
How do you combine your NGO with raising a family
Well to me family always comes first, before anything or anyone else. Family is my safe haven and the people I call family are the people I cherish and are passionate about. Of course running an NGO is very stressful and hands on, so I got good volunteers; passionate one, vibrant and vision driven. They make the job much more easier, I do a lot of delegating and God has being faithful though we are self-funded at the moment, no salary whatsoever but we give our all and hope for the best. Our reward has always being the smile on the faces of these girls, women and the disabled. Our reward is seeing justice being achieved and when a good standard of living is attained we are fulfilled.
What advice do you have for young women who have dreams of setting up an NGO .
To young women setting up an NGO. Find your passion, invest in your self, hard work, leverage on you network and organizations in the same initiative as yours and have enough funds that can sustain your passion for at least 2yrs. Most importantly seek the will of God first.