In developing countries, where tampons and sanitary pads aren’t readily available, having your period means missing classes. Girls in Uganda miss on average three days a month because they’re bleeding; that is, if they haven’t dropped out of secondary school altogether after their menarche. This lack of education leads to inequality and a lesser chance of socio-economic wellbeing later in life.
Back to school
Many organisations already support menstrual hygiene worldwide, for example by handing out reusable menstrual cups to deal with the immediate challenge of going to school on your period. UK charity PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) doesn’t only look at the sanitary issue, but also tackles the problem in a broader way. Together with local governments, PEAS has launched already 24 schools in Uganda and two in Zambia. The secondary schools, which are fenced off for their pupils’ safety, incorporate menstrual hygiene in the curriculum and provide the girls with menstrual management kits.
As part of the menstrual management programme, Girls Clubs were introduced into most of the schools. These clubs focus on self-confidence through discussions about women’s rights. They also teach practical skills, like growing maize and weaving baskets, and set up entrepreneurial projects in order to increase the girls’ chances of getting a job after graduation.
Despite their name, these Girls Clubs are also for boys. The schoolboys are given a greater understanding about menstruation in an attempt to tackle cultural misconceptions associated with periods. In some communities, for example, it is believed that ‘when blood is burned, you become barren’. This causes environmental pollution as women rather bury their used sanitary pads, than throwing away and incinerating.
The boys who partake in the Girls Clubs learn that periods aren’t scary and that girls are equal. Since the boys explain their lessons to friends and family members outside of school, and are viewed as role models by their peers, they help changing the negative attitude towards menstruation in Africa.
For £30, you can help a girl attend a Girls Club for one year. For more information and/or to donate, visit: peas.org.uk.