MBALE – A local tourist travel organisation has started skilling pupils in making re-usable sanitary pads from local materials to ensure that the girl -child stays in school even during menstrual periods.
The pilot project was started by Casa Uganda Safaris and Lodges, Women Empowerment Network [WEN], Elgon Girl Foundation and Makerere University Business School is targeting girl-child mainly girls from P4 to P7 in all primary schools in Mt Elgon sub-region that covers the territories of Sironko, Manafwa, Mbale, Bududa, Namisindwa and Bulambuli districts.
While launching the project at Nakibiso Primary School in Mbale July 31, the Executive Director Casa Uganda Safaris and Lodges Mr. Saleh Naminya said all pupils and teachers will be taught how to make re-usable pads and that these later will in turn teach others.
He revealed that Casa Uganda Safaris d also donate sanitary towels to vulnerable women and girls in schools, slums and the region’s rural areas.
“We are doing this using the Charity arm of Casa foundation to curb female pupils’ absenteeism from school during menstrual periods and to enable them attend the entire education cycle and perform well in national examinations,” said Mr. Naminya.
Ms Zam Namutosi, the chairperson WEN and trainer said in rural Uganda, girls and married women who cannot buy manufactured sanitary pads resort to using old clothes and other materials to cope with menses.
She revealed that a study of menstrual management in Uganda by International Water and Sanitation found out that female pupils mostly in rural areas stay away from school for at least eight days of study in a school term because of menstrual periods.
“And eight days on average translates into 220 learning days in a year which is 11% of the total learning days in a year and this impacts on the academic performance of girl-child in national examinations,” said Ms Namutosi.
According to a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) survey report conducted in 10 districts between 2012 and 2013, it is estimated that about 23 percent of adolescent girls between the ages 12-18 years that start experiencing menstrual periods lack adequate menstrual protection such as sanitary pads and that they usually keep out of school when the start their periods.
“It’s a school absence rate that is hard for the girl to make up for and partly accounts for girls dropping out of high school,” reads the UNICEF report in part in part released in August 2014.
Ms Justine Nekesa, the Makerere Business school administrator Mbale campus said the menstrual periods have greatly affected the academic performance of the girl child in rural poor homes.
“There is a lot of absenteeism when female pupils are in their menstrual periods and some of the pupils have continued to drop out. Some could experience their period at school without pads yet the school and some parents can’t provide them but with this partnership, we are going to skill our children to make re-usable pads and stay in school,” Ms Nekesa said.
Mr Michael Wangwe, the head teacher Nashibiso Primary School said although every child has a right to education, lack of safe menstrual hygiene solutions are often a barrier to many girls especially in the rural primary schools where some families cannot afford to buy sanitary pads every month.
“At times some girls wrap a sweater around their waists during their period because they are teased when their uniforms get soiled with blood and this is one of the most embarrassing moments. Some pupils use old clothes as pads but they easily get soaked for me this is a good gesture by Casa Uganda to enable our girls stay in school,” said Mr Wangwe.
Mr Amos Wekesa, the CEO Great Lakes Safaris said the lack of access to sanitary towels is not just a problem for girls from poor backgrounds, but even a sizeable number from middle-class families adding that many parents rarely think of giving girls an allowance for sanitary pads.
He added that he sees the problem as largely afflicting women and girls in rural areas and informal settlements due to their low purchasing power.
Mr Wekesa explained that reusable pads are safe if properly washed with soap and plenty of water then dried in under the sun adding that the reusable pads are a great relief to the parents because buying the monthly disposables will cost about Shs4,500 a packet and reusable pads last for more than a year.
“This is meant to help you stay in school to achieve your dreams to become doctors, teachers, accountants, Nurses etc and I want to urge boys to stop stigmatizing girls under menstruation but to help them go through it safely,” said Mr Wekesa.
She expressed concern over ignorance of menstrual hygiene in the communities and urged government and responsible organizations to increase sensitization for people to understand that menstruation in women is normal.