Menstruation with dignity

It has often been claimed that ‘there is no tool for development as effecting than the education of girls’ (Kofi Annan, 2005). A worldwide issue of gender inequality has landed on the shoulders of girls in developing countries. Therefore, efforts in international development has in the last decades turned its focus to expanding the access of education for girls. Poverty, early marriages, pregnancies, unequal distribution of household work between boys and girls, and other gender inequalities has often been identified as the reason for higher number of boys than girls in schools. Therefore, the focus has been to get girls into school, in other words, to increase the number enrolled.

However, now that so many more girls are enrolled in schools in developing countries it is quickly becoming apparent that there are inequalities within schools that hinder the development towards gender equality. One of these barriers are menstruation.

Education is often seen as a ‘panacea’ for fixing all of the world’s problems. There is extensive research on the positive effect of education on reduced child mortality, reduced fertility rates and economic growth etc. etc… that all sounds great doesn’t it? However, attending school and becoming educated are two different things. Being registered in a school without learning would not produce these positive outcomes that so often are highlighted. And for many girls, especially in developing countries with little or no access to sanitary items, learning is a luxury.

Lack of sanitation facilities and sanitary items contribute to a staggering discrepancy between boys and girl’s education.

For most of us girls, menstruation may be uncomfortable and let’s just say, not our favorite week of the month. However, for many school girls in especially sub-Saharan Africa, menstruation means an inability to attend school and therefore quickly fall behind the school curriculum. Long school days with little or no access to pads means leakage, use of rags and leafs to hinder that leakage, and with that, a risk of infections.

Studies have also shown that some girls even engage in ‘transactional sex’ in order to get the funds required to buy sanitary items in order to be able to attend school during menstruation to prevent falling behind.

Intervention where sanitary items has been distributed has seen a decline in absence in schools during menstruation. It may not solve the problem of gender inequality per se, but access to sanitation products and clean underwear can at least assure girls a more equal ability to attend school as their male counterparts.

In Uganda, CINTA Foundation has generously offered to help me distribute kits with sanitary items that are reusable and that includes clean underwear for the girls to use to attach the sanitary pads to. One kit with reusable sanitary items and clean underwear cost 4.30 USD. In Melbourne that is the same cost as one fancy latte. So, today I am asking you to please have your coffee at home today and donate to give girls the chance to keep their dignity during menstruation and continue to attend school.

The distribution will be in the Kayunga district found in the central region of Uganda. The district is comprised of two counties; Ntenjery and Bbaale (with a total population of 386,062). The first phase of this project will cover the Bbale county with includes the sub counties of Ggaliraya and Kitimbwa which are lake shore areas where the main household incomes are based on fishing and agriculture. These two areas are difficult to reach due to the terrain with both areas being over 100 km from Kampala city. Bbaale is situated in a poverty pocket where the main part of the population earns less than $1 per day. Therefore, most households have no budget for sanitary items.

Help us keep girls in schools and menstruate with dignity by donating here

Lots of love,