Have you ever not gone to school or work because of the period? Perhaps because of cramps and pain, but less likely because you were not able to afford a pad or were too shy to tell your parents you need one. Many African girls face this problem on a daily basis.
For example, in Kenya talking about girls’ menstruation is often considered a taboo. This results lack of sexual and health education and also forces girls to experience tremendous amount of embarrassment when getting their period.
Many families live in poverty and cannot afford to buy sanitation products for their daughters. Due to inability to access these products many girls are forced to miss school as often as 1 week per month, which could result a dropout in the future.
The lack of proper sanitation products available is not the only challenge African girls face. Another problem is lacking sanitation facilities at schools such as separate locked bathrooms where girls could change in peace.
Many organizations are trying to solve this problem, because it roots deeper resulting less girls graduating from school and meaning less girls ending up with jobs after graduation. And this again affects poorly gender equality.
Luckily there are companies such as Finnish menstrual cup producer Lunette. In 2015 Lunette has launched project The Cup, which helps girls in Kenya to get proper sexual and health education additionally providing them with a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are reusable and could be used up to 10 years with proper care. That means that girls could attend school normally and continue to work and perhaps pursue career after their graduation. That alone makes an enormous impact on gender equality and girl empowerment.
The Kenyan government along with UNICEF are developing national guidelines for menstrual hygiene in schools. That includes proper facilities and hand washing places.
The topic of girl’s menstruation is still in a developing stage, but as we could see colossal progress is being made towards better future for girls. Let’s hope that period-talk will no longer be a taboo topic in our society and it will increase girls’ educational level. These small changes make a big difference in the girl’s position in this slowly but surely changing world.
UNICEF, Lunette, Africaeducationaltrust.org, Plan International, Menstrualhygieneday.org