It was a Tuesday afternoon when Grace realized that she had stained her uniform dress with menstrual blood while in class. Being the first time to menstruate and with fear of being laughed at, there was nothing to do as she couldn’t stand up or walk from the classroom to the washroom to clean up herself nor did she have a sanitary pad to use and she was left with one option of waiting for all her classmates to leave the classroom for the lunch break so she could quickly run back home and return to school after finishing her menstrual days.
Grace’s story might seem extreme, but she’s not alone. Many young women and adolescent girls have limited or no access to sanitary products to manage their menstrual periods leaving them vulnerable to dropping out of school hence increasing chances of child marriage and missing out on work and opportunities to overcome poverty. Most of them resort to using rugs, sand, shreds of foam mattresses and leaves which are extremely unhygienic, putting girls at risk of diseases.
A 2022 report by the U.N. estimated that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their periods or eventually drop out altogether. Surveys show 33%-61% increase in absence of adolescent school girls due to lack of menstrual hygiene provisions.
A recent Education and sports Ministry report in Uganda indicates that about 23% of Ugandan girls in the age group of 12-18 drop out of school when they begin menstruation. When girls in Uganda are on their period, absence from school isaround 28– a sharp increase from 7% on non-period day.
The lack of menstrual products isn’t the only barrier limiting girls from achieving their full potential but the stigma surrounding menstruation is also marginalizing girls and young women within society which has a huge impact on their daily lives since talking about menstruation is often considered taboo and associated with negative gender attitudes of women being ‘dirty’ or ‘contaminated’. Adding to this, girls themselves lack complete knowledge and are not prepared for menstruation.
At Gufasha Girls Foundation, our goal is to ensure that girls are in school, learning and being able to achieve their full potential and through this, we make it a huge role to attend to their menstrual hygiene management and we have been able to help girls in rural schools by providing them with sanitary materials and soap and educating them to be prepared for menstruation and how to healthily manage their periods. In addition, we challenge and dismantle taboos and shame around menstruation by creating awareness in communities so that girls can menstruate with pride and dignity.
We thank all the donors that have contributed to this cause for your generosity and continue to ask for more support to further our goal of ensuring good menstrual hygiene management amongst adolescent girls.