Higherlife Foundation is not only committed to investing in children’s education but in making sure these children have access to ancillary support services that improve their chances of success. In light of this, the first week of April observed the Talent Development department train 50 global leaders on re-usable sanitary pads usage and hygiene at the University of Zimbabwe. The aim of the training was to impact communities and keep the girl child in school.
As you read the article below, you will gain an appreciation of how important it is to educate and inform the community on menstrual hygiene and management. Menstrual hygiene management is a poorly researched area and the impacts on education are not clearly understood by many people. This is due to menstrual issues being a topic that is silenced and somewhat taboo. Menstrual hygiene is an important factor in maintaining the physical and mental wellbeing of women, bearing in mind that 50.7% of the total population in Zimbabwe is female (United Nations).
Adolescence for girls is a time when many changes are taking place and the start of a natural menstrual cycle process. It is highly associated with misconceptions and challenges amongst girls particularly in middle to low income countries. This life changing period in a young girl’s life deserves due attention to disseminate correct information. According to UNICEF, 1 in 10 school age African girl does not attend school during her menstrual cycle or dropped out at puberty due to lack of cleanliness and separate toilet facilities for female students at school.
Affordable and hygienic sanitary products are out of financial scope of most young girls in low income countries which then makes them resort to the use of unhygienic rags and cloths. A girl is on average absent from school due to menstruation for 4 days every 28 day cycle and loses 13 learning days, equivalent to 2 weeks of learning every school term (Humanity Healing).
- Lack of education on menstruation
- Increased feelings of shame and guilt during this period
- Inadequate privacy and sanitary facilities
- Risk of getting infections due to unhygienic practices
- Lack of water
- Lack of proper sanitary wear
- Lack of finances to purchase sanitary wear products
- Lack of waste disposal facilities
- Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation, involving abdominal cramps)
Dysmenorrhea is associated to school absenteeism, decreased academic performance, school participation and socialization with peers. Without adequate facilities, training and education for schools, teachers and students, there will be no structure to support the girl child during this period and further disadvantage her in learning and education.
Reduced concentration and academic achievement
What Can Be Done
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) are public health related projects found in many international development agencies. International Medical Corps states that only 45% of schools in the least developed countries have adequate sanitation facilities. WASH programs in schools contribute to increased student attendance and increases the dignity and gender equality.
A Solution: Introducing Re-usable Pads
Reusable sanitary pads are a sustainable resource that allows girls to wash and reuse sanitary pads rather than having to purchase and dispose of pads every month. These pads are comparatively inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools
- Raise awareness of the need for the management of menstrual hygiene in schools
- The need to increase access of correct information about menstruation is necessary in schools
- Teachers need to be trained and taught on how to manage cases as they arise in school
- Assess current knowledge base and practices
- Assess the practices in place at the school regarding menstruation from students, teachers and resources available. The coping mechanisms that are implemented, the advantages and challenges with the mechanisms. This helps in setting the baseline for the training as well as gage the information and needs gaps to focus on. This can touch on the related social and cultural issues that influence menstrual management
- Review WASH infrastructure in schools
- The review of current infrastructure is crucial as this enables to see the gaps in which resources will need to be allocated
- Is there a drinking water source
- Is there water availability
- Is there changing and disposal facilities available in toilets
- Are toilets cleaned regularly
- Is soap available