Why, in Kenya, menstruation doesn’t have to mean an end to education for young girls

For girls and women in Ireland, it is impossible to imagine attending school as an adolescent without the basic necessities of underwear and sanitary towels, but this is the reality for many girls in Kajiado County, in Kenya, home to the Maasai people, a semi-nomadic pastoralist community.

Menstruation without these items means many girls have no choice but to stay at home from school for 4-5 days per month. The impact of such frequent absenteeism results in lower educational achievements and often leads to girls dropping out of school before completing the KCPE – the Kenyan Primary Certificate.

Aidlink and the Girl Child Network have worked in partnership on this issue for 10 years, creating girl-friendly learning environments for some of the most isolated and disadvantaged school children in Kenya. Together they developed the School Sanitation Improvement Project, which is now operational in almost 100 primary schools throughout Kajiado.

The project sets out to ensure primary school-children, especially girls, are enrolled in school, stay in school, perform well and continue to secondary and higher institutions of learning. A central part of this involves tackling one of the ongoing obstacles to keeping girls in education in Kenya, that of menstruation.

For most girls, getting their first period is often a trying time, but for girls in rural Kenya it can mean an end to education. Aidlink and the Girl Child Network’s project improves the school learning environment by providing water tanks, girl-friendly latrines, sanitary towels, underwear and the delivery of sexual maturation training.

Additionally, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is a core cultural practice among the Maasai people and is considered a pre-curser for marriage. For Maasai girls who stay in school, FGM and early marriage may be delayed, but poor performance and absenteeism due to menstruation often leads parents to disregard the benefits of education. Without school, girls as young as nine are subjected to FGM and subsequent childhood marriage. In times of hardship and drought, girls are traded as brides in exchange for livestock.

Although illegal in Kenya, FGM remains a cultural rite of passage for many traditional Massai communities, but progress is being made. In schools where the School Sanitation Improvement Project is not operating, FGM rates are around 73 per cent among Maasai communities. In schools where it is operating FGM rates have decreased to 62 per cent, and continue to decline.

Source:  www.aidlink

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Vision and leadership taking place around Menstrual hygiene management in Uganda

// Vision and leadership taking place around menstrual hygiene management in Uganda :: IRC// // //

Globally we see a new movement focusing on “breaking the silence” around menstrual hygiene management (MHM). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be reached if we do not tackle the taboo around MHM. Menstrual Hygiene Manangement falls under two SDG goals, namely goal 4 which focuses on ensuring inclusion and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. And SDG goal 6 focusing on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This means MHM has a serious impact on the education, health and dignity of women and girls. So basically, we cannot talk about universal education and services for all and leave out menstrual hygiene management.

By Marielle Snel (Programme Officer- IRC HQ) and Lydia Mirembe Ssenyonjo (Communication & Knowledge Management Officer – IRC Uganda)

Worldwide, approximately 50% of girls and women are of reproductive age. Most of these women and school girls will menstruate each month for between two and seven days, for at least thirty years of their life. New data show that the world is still unlikely to fulfil one of the most modest commitments: to get every child in school by 2015. More than 57 million children continue to be denied the right to primary education, and many of them will probably never enter a classroom (UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2013). Part of this disparity is attributed to a lack of separate WASH facilities at schools, especially for girls during menstruation age.

Particularly in Uganda, there has been a great effort to focus more on menstrual hygiene management. In July – August 2012, SNV and IRC carried out a pilot action research entitled “Study on menstrual management in Uganda”, funded by Austrian Aid. The study, conducted in selected schools in seven districts, found that on average, over 57% of schoolgirls aged 11-13 absent themselves from school due to menstrual-related challenges. The study found that around half of the girl pupils in the study report missing 1-3 days of primary school per month. This translates into a loss of 8 to 24 school days per year. This means per term a girl pupil may miss up to 8 days of study. On average, there are 220 learning days in a year and missing 24 days a year translates into 11% of the time a girl pupil will miss learning due to menstrual periods. The study revealed a clear lack of sustainable menstrual hygiene management support, from basics such as suitable facilities to psychological support for girls dealing with menstruation. One key means of keeping girls in primary school is the provision of better menstrual management materials and facilities. If not addressed properly menstrual hygiene management will not only lead to more girls missing school, but can potentially cause an increase in the number of girls dropping out of school altogether.

In August 2014, the first ever menstrual hygiene management conference was held in Kampala, Uganda which brought together over 200 delegates from among water, sanitation and hygiene practitioners in Uganda, across Africa and beyond. Delegates came from  NGOs, the private sectors as well as government. The conference theme: “Break the silence on menstruation; keep girls in school” has since resonated in the key developments around MHM. First, a motion on menstrual hygiene was tabled in Parliament in November 2014. This was followed, in the beginning of this year, by the directive of the Ministry of Education and Sports, requiring schools to provide girls with sanitary pads. The ongoing review of the school health policy also provides an opportunity to address MHM more decisively. The mainstream media have also kept MHM on the public agenda, by constantly providing ample space for its coverage, particularly in the education sections. It would appear then that MHM in schools is clearly being prioritized in Uganda. But is this truly really the case?Continue

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Lack of privacy: 15 girls out of school

By Francis Emorut

A total of 15 girls in Kabweri Primary School in Kibuku district have dropped out of school as a result of lack of privacy during lessons on how to use sanitary pads during menstruation periods.

According to the head teacher of the school, Margaret Namwenge, the school does not have a changing room for the girls and this has impacted on them when they want to use pads.

As a result, the senior teacher uses the Primary One (P1) classroom – after the pupils have left in the afternoon – to counsel the girls on the proper use of the sanitary pads.

The school head appealed to MPs to advocate for more funds towards the construction of a changing room for girls to prevent more from dropping out of school.

“We are supposed to have privacy with the girls when we show them how to use pads but they have been stigmatized by some boys who peep at them,” Namwenge told MPs of the parliamentary forum on water, sanitation and hygiene.

The legislators were on field tour to assess the implementation of the water, sanitation and hygiene program in schools.

Kibuku Woman MP Sarah Wenene talks to the headteacher Margaret Namwenge (left) as the Kibuku LC5 Christopher Mupalama and RDC Margaret Wazikonya (right) look on. (Photo credit: Francis Emorut)
District education officials and members of the civil society were also on the tour.

The field visit was organized by Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group in partnership with Build Africa, Network for water and Sanitation Uganda and Water Aid Uganda aimed at providing lawmakers with information on the ground to enable them advocate for increased financing for water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools.

Edith Nawederake, a teacher at the school, said the boys keep telling the girls that they are now mature girls ready for marriage, saying this has stigmatized many girls.

Efforts are ongoing at the school to sensitize the pupils about menstruation – and how it is normal for girls to go through that. Out of the 1405 pupils at the school, 775 are girls.

Sarah Wenene the Woman MP for Kibuku was shocked by the “terrible” and called on district leaders and the education ministry to address the matter.

Christopher Wamika, senior education officer, told the MPs that the resource envelope was small and therefore his office cannot do much. He appealed to legislators to advocate for more funding.

The MPs who were on the field tour included Jacob Opolot (Pallisa) Julius Maganda (Samia Bugwe), David Muhumuza (Mwenge) and Waira Majegere (Bunya East).

Broken desks inside the school administration cannot be repaired due to inadequate budget. (Photo credit: Francis Emorut)

Pupils studying while seated on the floor due to lack of desks. (Photo credit: Francis Emorut)

Pupils of Kabweri Primary School in Kibuku district in the playround. The boys’ peeping habit has been blamed for girls’ drop out.  (Photo credit: Francis Emorut)

A computer and a typewriter donated by the late Bishop Gonahasa lie idle due to lack of electricity at the school. (Photo credit: Francis Emorut)

PATIENCE PAYS BUT … : Pupils at the school in a queue to the pit latrine. (Photo credit: Francis Emorut)

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Towards a sustainable solution for menstrual hygiene management

Around the developing world, menstrual hygiene management remains a major challenge for many schoolgirls – with taboos around menstruation, limited health education and a lack of menstrual hygiene materials and facilities all contributing to health problems, social exclusion and poor educational outcomes for young women. Continue


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Uganda Table Tennis champion breaks silence on menstrual hygiene management to keep girls in school

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Legislators Seek Policy on Menstrual Hygiene Management

In short
The need ascended from a motion tabled before parliament by Shadow Minister of Education Akello Judith Franca arguing that the dignity of the girl child is undermined by gender unfriendly school cultures and practices. This includes the lack of adequate menstrual hygiene management gears like soap, sanitary pads, private bathing spaces and places for changing and disposing off used materials

Members of Parliament observe a need for a comprehensive policy on menstrual hygiene management as a way of keeping the girl child in school.

The need ascended from a motion tabled before parliament by Shadow Minister of Education Akello Judith Franca arguing that the dignity of the girl child is undermined by gender unfriendly school cultures and practices.

This includes the lack of adequate menstrual hygiene management gears like soap, sanitary pads, private bathing spaces and places for changing and disposing off used materials.  Akello argues that such conditions coupled with sexual harassment are affecting the participation of the girl child in education.

Based on the concern, Akello requested that Parliament resolves that a comprehensive policy on menstrual hygiene management is formulated to enhance implementation of Education programs for the girl child.

The motion further demanded that government sets aside funds for the Education Ministry to support sustainable menstrual hygiene management programs as well as the incorporation of menstrual hygiene management in various curriculums of the Ministry of Education.

Baba Diri Margaret, the Woman MP for Koboko District demanded that government subsidizes Sanitary Pads so that they become more affordable for the girl child. She also demanded for separate toilets for girls in schools.

Also in support of the motion was Ishaka Municipality MP Odo Tayebwa noted who observed that government has a responsibility to develop a policy requiring a provision of sanitary towels in schools through senior women teachers.

“In our culture it’s a taboo to see the blood of a menstruating woman as well as a taboo for men to sleep with a woman during her menstruation period. When we talk about sanitary towels, it is not something we should take lightly”, Tayebwa noted.

//Cue in: “when we are talking…….
Cue out:…….they cannot”//

“There is no way you can fail to give emergence to such matters because it is natural”, Kalungu West MP Joseph Sewungu said.

//Cue in: “I was conducting…….
Cue out:…….support it”//

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga directed that the Minister of Education Jessica Alupo gives a formal response on the motion next week before Parliament makes its final decision on the matter.

Source: https://ugandaradionetwork.com/a/story.php?s=68678
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Recommendations from MHM Conference 2014

Outcome of sharing and learning conference on menstrual hygiene management

On policy

  • Establish an inter-ministerial coordination task force on MHM between ministry of Health, education, Gender and water with other non-state actors. – ministry of education Gender Unit organizes the first meeting
  • Development of implementation frame work with attendant Monitoring &Evaluation component (indicators) that speaks to the new National Development Plan and post – 2015 ( sustainable Development Goals) discussions.
  • Promote public private partnership for sustained advocacy, mainstreaming and resources allocation

On finance

  • Empower girls with own income to purchase pads (sanitary materials)
  • Reach out to girls in (MOES) and out of school- (MGLSD)
  • Line ministries to incorporate MHM in relevant policy documents (school health policy)
  • Develop ministerial strategic plans/ budgets for MHM
  • Multiple solutions and approaches to MHM
  • Improvise measures to ensure that income generated for MHM is spent effectively
  • More research on the private public partnerships
  • Utilize the schools health clubs for awareness and advocacy
  • Placing a price tag on menstrual hygiene management— social costs, economic gain
  • Costing the entire supply chain for sanitary pads. Going beyond the pads/products to focus on entire package of services
  • Providing different choices for urban and rural
  • Life skills training to be incorporated in the education sector teaching circular
  • Investing in the training manuals for MHM
  • Develop advocacy plans for the various development partners
  • Sustainable solutions for MHM
  • The current prices for sanitary pads are still high- there is need to strengthen PPP
  • Skills and Technology transfer of small scale industries for income generation thus adopt business models to tackling MHM challenges

On menstrual hygiene in schools

  • Providing emergency sanitary pads at school level
  • Provide affordable sanitary materials (pads)
  • Government and CSOs to target out of school girl child and woman
  • Parents take on the awareness creation x 2
  • Enhancing participatory approaches among the children( life skils)
  • Involvement of all gender in managing MH
  • Standardize WASH facilities (Wash rooms and incinerators)
  • Including MHM basics in the school teaching programs ( teaching training schools )
  • Start education on MHM in Lower primary level
  • Essential right and responsibility for parents to buy sanitary materials for their children
  • Skills training e.g income generating activities
  • Strengthen the position of the senior woman and man teachers (support structures)
  • Start breaking the silence at family and school level
  • Ministry of health to take lead in advocacy using the lowest local government structures (coordination )
  • Seminars in schools for advocacy
  • Creating a supply chain for MH in urban/rural areas
  • React out to girls with special needs
  • Government policies to prioritize MH, provide WASH rooms
  • Learning from successful approaches e.g waste disposal
  • Behavior change communication using social norms to trigger attitude and sustainable behavior change
  • Create safe environments for dialogues
  • Learning and knowledge management for learning / sharing and adoption of  working approaches   (evidence base advocacy)

 On technology

  • We need to regulate the technologies being brought in the country.
  • There is need to avail water on designed wash facilities (water should constantly be available)
  • The menstrual hygiene products need to be available on the local market
  • PWDs should also be catered for while designing menstrual hygiene facilities
  • Skills should be extended to young girls in schools to make pads
  • Districts and local governments should adopt RWH on toilets facilities being constructed
  • Products should go through the necessary health standards
  • Designs should carter for disposal of the pads
  • Engage DLGs to budget for MHM while planning


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