Menstruation is a major reason for young girls in Uganda to miss school. Reasons for their absence stems from the stigma associated with “that time of the month,” a lack of sanitary napkins and the limited facilities available to students. Attending school while on their period forces girls to put their health at risk and chance being the subject of humiliation.
In an interview with a Guardian reporter, 16-year-old Lydia from Kampala, Uganda expressed why going to school during her period is difficult. She explained that some of the toilets did not have doors, so that if someone walked in, they would see her. Her school also has only four toilets for 2,000 students. The toilets’ inability to flush or have water complicates the issue further, making menstruation in Uganda a problem in multiple ways.
In a recent study by SNV, officials report that girls miss between 8 to 24 days of school per year while menstruating.
Some girls attempt to prevent their clothing from being ruined by trying to absorb the blood with old cloth or old t-shirts, but these methods are not particularly successful. In another interview, Auma Milly commented that disposable pads are very expensive and are often not available in the more rural regions. Consequently, she felt embarrassed when she went to school and would soil her clothes so often that she chose not to attend.
In an attempt to address the problem regarding women’s sanitary needs, organizations including Save the Children, WaterAid, the Institute of Reproductive Health and local NGO Caritas Lira have begun to raise awareness and assist the cause. Representatives from WaterAid commented on the importance of deconstructing the taboo regarding women’s health. The founder of 50 Cents. Period. described the battle as giving girls the basic right to hygiene. SNV and Caritas Lira have gone to schools in order to teach girls how to make reusable, affordable pads. Additionally, female Ugandan government officials have begun advocating for reduced taxes on sanitary napkins and improved facilities so that menstruation does not interfere with education.
– Jordyn Horowitz