Menstrual hygiene helps make school a better place for girls
By Anna-Marie Guiney
Kapilvastu, 25 March 2010 - Maya Devi, a teacher at Sitalbox Lower Secondary School in Kapilbastu District, has started something new in her school to encourage more girls to stay in school full time. She has mobilised the School Management Committee (SMC) to fund sanitary pads for the menstruating girls in the school. “There are about thirty adolescent girls in our school who are menstruating. During this time, these girls used to skip up to five days a month as they were too embarrassed to be in school during this time”, says Maya.
“After my menstrual period started, my study is suffering. Every month during my period, I found myself going through some kind of mental trauma - like what if there is lot of bleeding and blood stains on my school dress and the boys saw that. I could not concentrate in class and it is even harder at exam times. The toilets at our school are not clean and there is no place for changing or throwing away used pads. It is not my problem only. All my friends are facing the same problems.” - A student at Sitalbox School
“Now these girls come to school for the five days they used to skip as we provide sanitary pads to manage their menstruation”, Maya adds proudly. Maya collects a contribution from the SMC every month so there is a continuous supply of sanitary pads in the school for the girls to use. After one month, the school will have a new latrine where an incinerator is being built attached to the girls’ wing so they can easily dispose of the used sanitary pads.
Menstruation is a monthly occurrence that requires access to appropriate materials and facilities. Managing menstruation is essentially dealing with menstrual flow and being able to continue with normal day to day activities such as going to school and working. Without this access, women and girls suffer from poor menstrual hygiene that restricts both their movement and their dignity. Girls attending schools that do not have adequate sanitary arrangements, such as separate toilets for girls and boys, proper privacy, or physical facilities to dispose of sanitary items, feel excluded in many ways.
This issue is more than just about girls’ need for better facilities but also about women’s empowerment and gender equality- “If girls cannot attend school for one week out of four,” said Ms. Maya Devi, “their education will suffer in relations to their male counterparts. Thus, to ensure equality and to help guarantee their right to education, focus and resources must be put into what at first might seem like an issue of minor significance.”
Maya is proving that positive changes are achievable. Girls is Sitalbox School now have the right information on how to care for themselves during their menstruation and access to local products and disposal facilities. They feel safer and far less embarrassed.