‘This is a cup, it’s a scholarship, it’s a key to a brighter future’: Meet G.D Anderson; Feminist, Everyday Fighter and Founder of The Cova Project

 
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If G.D Anderson is right and all women are strong, she is still standing there, head and shoulders above the rest.

She has to be; there is still so much to be done, so much to be achieved. Being a woman is being part of a global sisterhood, and wherever there’s a place where women are being deprived, that’s where the G.D Andersons will be found – at the frontline. So many women – and their families – are held back by poor access to healthcare, education, food and water.

Australians may have spent several years fighting for the right to scrap GST from ‘luxury’ sanitary necessities but millions of women around the world don’t even have the ‘luxury’ of going to their local supermarket to purchase tampons or pads. According to UNICEF a stunning 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services, globally [1].

And G.D is fighting to change this.

 “My first trip to Africa was in 2006 on a family safari – I was obsessed with Tanzania’s wildlife and had the stubborn ambition of becoming a wildlife veterinarian when I was older.

“It truly was one of those life changing expeditions where you think ‘yeah, this is where I want to spend my life’.”

But G.D was unaware she was already caught up in another fight, one much closer to the home front.

“In 2015, I had marched into my doctor’s office ready to announce, ‘I’m moving to Africa’, but he beat me to the punch when he said, ‘you have Lyme disease’.”

After suffering 6 years of a debilitating illness and seemingly endless rounds of excruciating tests and futile treatments, Lyme disease was her eventual diagnosis. Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by bacteria in the Borrelia burgdorferi senso lato group. It is an invisible disease. The exact number of Australians suffering this debilitating illness is unknown as public health officials do not collect statistics about it.

And as yet there is no cure.

G.D receiving treatment in Malaysia

G.D receiving treatment in Malaysia

 “In 2015, I had marched into my doctor’s office ready to announce, ‘I’m moving to Africa’, but he beat me to the punch when he said, ‘you have Lyme disease’.”

“It took six years to get a diagnosis and once I got it, there was no guarantee of a successful treatment – not to mention the controversy surrounding the disease, which was really not something I wanted to take on. Lyme disease as a diagnosis was a bitter sweet win.

“But I’d seen every specialist you could imagine and participated in everything and anything they suggested without result.

“When you are sick and you really, really don’t want to be sick, you become desperate, just by nature of the situation.

“I let everyone prod me, poke me, search me for answers. I let doctors tell me it was in my head, I let them prescribe me medicine they thought might help, I suffered side effects from their ideas and I didn’t complain or quit.

“I’ve taken 135 supplements a day, had a doctor look into my eyes and tell me I’m going to die of thyroid cancer, been told to draw an imaginary box and step out of it and leave my ailments behind; worn a vibrator on my head and finally been lightly roasted in Malaysia as part of hyperthermia treatment.

“Though the weirdest treatment for me was anything encouraging me to take responsibility for my illness – anything suggesting I was the cause and the solution.

“Finally, I came across a doctor, who seemed to care about getting me better more than being right.

“He tested me for everything and those tests were conducted around the world. The results were Lyme disease and co-infections. It appeared my passion for nature had quite literally bit me in the ass and left a life-changing mark.

“Having an invisible illness is simply frustrating and being told there’s no cure is depressing.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of doctors admitting they haven’t got there yet and accepting that you’re in the unlucky group of people that have to suffer until science progresses. That admission is better than telling your patient it’s in their head.”

Yet throughout all her treatments, G.D’s dream of helping those less fortunate, and her love of Africa remained close to her heart.

“My second trip in 2015 was thanks to my sister Caillie, who generously volunteered her summer break to carry me through a two-week volunteer program in Namibia.

“We spent time at a wildlife sanctuary, which was my idea of heaven. We then travelled five hours and worked providing free healthcare to the San Bushman community.

“Our days were taken up patching bloodied and blistered feet, treating TB patients, witnessing women see their babies for the first time on ultrasound and watching our doctor reattach the butcher’s thumb.

“It was a unique experience with many highs and lows that left us with a knowledge of a world much different to the one we had back home.”

G.D in Epukiro, Namibia

G.D in Epukiro, Namibia

 “The Cova Project is there to lend a helping hand, provide a product that can help close the gap between girls and boys and give women access to personal development education, so they are informed and empowered.

At 25, together with Caillie, G.D Anderson founded The Cova Project, which in 2019 is providing more than 3000 African women with access to a free menstrual cup to last for up to 10 years. The Cova Project also provides education materials about periods for girls to be informed about basic physical health and personal development.

In developing African communities, girls spend an average of 50 days missing school to manage their periods and 12 weeks out of work. Instead of forcing women across Africa to source any absorbent material they can fossick – something our great-grandmothers were forced to do 50 plus years ago – G.D is sending top of the line silicone menstrual cups to these women.

Teaming up with Flowcup - a Swedish manufacturer of menstrual cups with a strong focus on philanthropy and sustainability, the objectives of The Cova Project have become a reality.

Of the girls in South Africa who currently use menstrual cups to manage their periods, over 70% no longer miss school or work due to their period.

“During my third visit to Africa, while working in Namibia, I visited this tiny, disintegrating local shop which sold essentials, bread, water, nappies, sanitary products. In fact, if I’m to be specific, they sold nine pads. That’s not nine packs of pads, that’s nine individual pads because no one was coming through those doors flashing the kind of money that’s going to get you a whole pack.

“These women buy pads individually and they ration them, which only allows them to participate in certain activities for short periods of time while menstruating.  

“I knew there were products out there that could provide an immediate solution and it seemed too simple to not get involved in.

“No girl should be at a disadvantage because of her period, when within the world solutions exist and are readily available.

“The Cova Project is there to lend a helping hand, provide a product that can help close the gap between girls and boys and give women access to personal development education, so they are informed and empowered.

“This is a cup, it’s a scholarship, it’s a key to a brighter future.”

 

For more information head to thecovaproject.com

[1] https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/fast-facts-nine-things-you-didnt-know-about-menstruation 

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