Many of us are fortunate in that we take for granted how easy it is for us to get our hands on period products. But this is not the case for everyone who menstruates. Globally, at least 500 million people lack access to the facilities they need to manage their periods. In South Africa specifically, 30% of female learners are forced to miss school when on their periods due to a lack of access to period products. Not only does this hinder their educational development, but it violates one of their basic human rights.
The CORA Project is a local women-led non-profit organisation (NPO) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) that is on a mission to help reduce these statistics and eliminate period poverty. They support menstruators from underprivileged communities in South Africa with the knowledge and resources they need to manage their periods safely and with dignity while also breaking barriers, changing negative social norms and eliminating period stigma and shaming.
Creating an NPO to do good
The CORA Project was founded in 2020 by Aurora Marcopoulos and her sister Cleopatra who are both passionate about human rights and gender equality. “My sister and I founded CORA as a response to the unequal access to quality menstrual products and education in South Africa that often results in girls missing school and losing out on their educational rights,” said Aurora.
“We host a variety of initiatives and projects, including workshops that educate people (both boys and girls, men and women) on periods, menstrual health and period poverty. We also have regular distributions where we support certain communities with their monthly period products. Our other initiatives, which are mostly social media based, raise awareness for periods like our #PeriodPower series in which we share period stories by menstruators from different walks of life,” continued Aurora.
The CORA team often visit underprivileged schools to address period myths and misconceptions and teach participants about menstruation, menstrual health and period poverty. Another focus of theirs is running skills development workshops to teach women how to make reusable pads. Through these workshops, The CORA Project enables women to start small businesses with the skills they have learned and help others in their community manage their periods.
Funding The CORA Project through donations
Like many NPOs, The CORA Project relies entirely on volunteers and donations to keep going. “We are fully crowd-funded and rely on donations, which includes online donations that people can make via our website through PayFast,” said Aurora.
“We use PayFast because they offer a great service, and it was very easy for our developer to integrate it with our WordPress website. PayFast also has good fees for what they offer and, most importantly, the payment gateway allows us to accept donations via a variety of popular payment methods,” continued Aurora.
Working towards eliminating period poverty
When The CORA Project began, one of their biggest obstacles was getting to know the different types of communities and what they required. “When we first entered this space, we honestly had no idea of the best way to connect menstruators with the products and education they needed. Thankfully, we learnt this over time and have developed a network and cemented partnerships that allow us to do what we do,” said Aurora.
“We are also working towards looking for corporate funding so that we can expand our work to more communities and even into the rest of Africa. We would of course also like to expand and have a full-time team because up till now it’s been solely volunteer-based,” concluded Aurora.
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