Two transition year pupils from County Meath became the 15th annual winners of Self Help Africa’s Irish Aid-sponsored ‘Science for Development Award,’ at last weekend’s annual student science fair in Dublin.
Teenagers Sophie McElligott and Salome Maher Bordalo from St Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School in Navan won the prestigious award for their project ‘Period,’ which proposed the creation of an ethical sanitary towel for school going girls in poorer countries of the world, together with an awareness raising and sensitisation campaign on the menstrual cycle of teenagers.
The winning students, together with their teacher Melissa Dowd, will receive a travel bursary to participate in a Self Help Africa schools visit to Africa, where they will get the opportunity to present their project and research to local audiences.
Home economics teacher Melissa Dowd said that the entire school was thrilled by the girls’ success, as the ‘Science for Development Award’ was the first project win for St. Joseph’s Navan at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition.
Ms Dowd said that it was particularly pleasing for the Mercy Order school to win the Irish Aid-sponsored prize, as the school placed great importance on the virtue of compassion and care for the less fortunate in our society and the world.
In their presentation, Sophie and Salome said that they wanted to normalise the conversation about the menstrual cycle, which was a normal body process.
Girls and women in developing countries often don’t have access to menstrual products, and in some countries, missed up to 20% of their school time because of their periods. “This is not just that they miss out on school, but they can also miss out on meals that children are provided with when they are at school,” Salome Maher Bordalo said.
The St Joseph’s Secondary School students said that they were also advocating for the creation of a natural sanitary pad, as some tampons in popular use took longer than a woman’s’ lifetime to fully degrade.
Self Help Africa Development Education coordinator Dorothy Jacob said that the ‘Science for Development’ prize was designed to encourage students to think about the challenges facing people in poorer parts of the world, when they devised their BT Young Scientist projects.
The Navan students were presented with their winning prize by Mr. Ruairi De Burca, the Director General of Irish Aid.