It’s no secret that in many developing countries all over the world, boys' education is often prioritised over girls. However, in recent years many areas have seen an increase in access for girls to go to schools. My own research during my masters focused beyond this access. I aimed to find what were the possible barriers for girls education beyond having physical access to school? In many regions in Sub Saharan Africa, one of the major obstacles for girls to keep up with the curriculum is sanitation and menstrual health. During menstruation, many girls decide to remain in the house because they simply cannot manage a full day in school without access to sanitary items. Consequently, they are likely to fall behind the curriculum when they remain at home one out of the month’s four weeks, all year around.
Imagine that every month when your period starts you have no means to keep dry and clean. You are then forced to stay at home and miss valuable education you need to improve yours, and in many cases, your family’s financial situation. Every single girl and woman deserves to manage her menstruation with dignity without having to either sacrifice her education, use rags or use other non-hygienic alternatives to the sanitary items we so often take for granted.
This is how Menstruation With Dignity started. I aimed to distribute sanitary items to girls that may need it, specifically in areas in Uganda that I knew from research suffered tremendous lack of access to both clean school toilets as well as sanitary items such as pads. #MenstruationWithDignity distributed over 500 kits in the first months with sanitary pads and underwear to school girls in need of them in northern Uganda. However, trying to manage distribution in rural areas in Uganda from my living room in Melbourne quickly became impossible. That is how I found Cotton On Foundation and their work in the Rakai district.
Cotton On Foundation has worked tirelessly for over 12 years in the Rakai District building several schools, medical facilities and partnering up with local efforts to create real community change and give all children a high quality education. I had the pleasure to visit several of these schools during my recent trip to Mannya with the Cotton On Foundation team. In these schools, both boys and girls from neighboring areas can access a high quality education and clean and safe sanitation facilities. However, sanitary items are expensive and for most of these girls, a luxury they simply cannot afford. Together with Cotton On Foundation, I am determined to provide school girls with the means to handle their menstruation with dignity. Not only will they receive sanitary items such as reusable pads, but also sex and health education.
It is easy to take for granted our access to sanitary items and although I am sure many would agree with me that menstruation may not be our most favourite week of the month, it doesn’t stop us from learning, improving, developing and engaging with others. Being able to go about our everyday life and its ups and downs should not be a privilege during menstruation.
During my recent trip to Mannya, we conducted workshops to ask the girls themselves what they preferred in terms of sanitary items, and the majority wanted reusable pads. These reusable pads are a more sustainable option compared to disposable ones, both financially for the community but also environmentally. They are easy to use and sanitize, and they give the user the freedom to always be prepared for the next time they get their periods.
One kit contains four reusable sanitary pads. For as little as $5, you can give a girl in Uganda a kit, valuable sex and health education, and be part of the movement that gives girls the ability to have their menstruation with dignity. To donate, click here!