Why Girls Are Missing Classes At The Camps

Every 10 Ugandan and refugee schoolgirls in 20 stays away from class due to menstruation because they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads.

Why Girls Are Missing Classes At The Camps
Some of the girls and women at Palorinya displays their saniatary pads during the training at Budri Zone II [Photo| Paul Night]

By Paul Night

MOYO, 03 Jan 2018 [Gurtong]-However, the newly installed machines at Palorinya, Boroli and Pagirinya refugee settlements in Moyo and Adjumani districts respectively are now boosting the production of free sanitary pads to support over 4000 South Sudanese girls and women.

Agnes Nalule, the Project officer with Mission 1040, a Church Organisation that provides humanitarian aid for refugee said a total of 49 young girls were trained in supporting the production that benefits 4000 School girls and women of refugees in the three settlements.

“We are supporting them with access to affordable sanitary pads and this has taken a good path since the installation of those machines in the settlements which are the major innovation to address the crisis facing our refugee ladies”, Nalule said.

Accordingly to the reports 70 percent of mothers in Palorinya, Bololi and Pagirinya refugee settlements think menstrual cycle is dirty and 66 percent of girls and women manage periods without toilets.

 She noted that handling periods in a refugee settlement is hugely complex, influenced by differences in socio-cultural norms, with barely no education to young girls on how to experience their periods, what they can do while menstruating, what they can use to absorb menstrual blood and how they dispose the material, whether and from whom they can seek information and help.

Nalule added that when a girl faces obstacles in managing her menses in a healthy way, she is at risk for infection, her self-esteem and self-confidence suffers, she may remain absent from school during her period, or worse still, drop out of school altogether upon reaching puberty.
She said over time, these negative effects add up, preventing a young girl from achieving her full potential and having a healthy, productive life.

“We are responding to this crisis by supplying free Lucky Girls Sanitary Pads to young girls and women in Palorinya, Boroli and Pagirinya refugee settlements. These 3 settlements host 36,000 people of which 72 percent are young girls, women and children between 9 to 18 years”

Nalule said the organisation will continue to address this reality, through training of young girls on how to produce affordable and safe sanitary pads (Sanitary Pads), providing education and awareness creation that benefit rural school going girls and women.

“We have supported more 4000 young girls with sanitary pads and all were able to stay in class last term during their periods with dignity and addressing menstrual health management challenge for refugees women and school girls.”

 Ester Kiden  at Chinyi Primary school said: “I was in primary 5 when I first menstruated.” She remembers how she bled through her uniform, and every one at school laughed, the boys and girls all laughed at her so she became embarrassed and intimidated and ran out of class, and did not want to go back.

Neither her parents nor her teachers had told her about menstruation, or what to do once it happened. She says that underneath her embarrassment there was also confusion, fear and a feel of hopelessness. 

“For the first time I had the opportunity to learn about my health, I started using clean sanitary pads I feel more respected and comfortable.  More important I have not missed my lessons last term”, she said.

Joyce Duku, one of the refugee Mothers said the organization has saved her from the monthly shame.

“Previously I missed collecting my food ratios because I feared to go near people during my periods in this camp life it’s been so hard. The way we need constant food supply we also need constant supply for pads”, she said.

Menstrual health challenges that young girls and women face in the refugee settlements are something that many people never even think about, because they don’t know any different.
But if you live on less than $2 a day, you can’t afford proper menstruation or sanitation products.

“Instead, women use mattress stuffing, leaves, newspapers, or rags—things that are unhealthy, inappropriate, and undignified”, said Joyce Duku.

 Margret Asianzo, a Senior Nursing officer at Moyo general hospital said if ladies don’t have running water or access to latrines, the situation worsens.

“Girls miss an average of 70 to 90 days of school every year because of poor access. It is daunting and puts them at an even greater disadvantage in the education system”, Asianzo said.

She added that Sanitary Pads helps to empower girls to achieve their full academic potential, curbing the high rates of menstrual-related absenteeism. “Every girl deserves control over her future, the power to make her own choices about her health, family and career, but without education, this is a little more than a dream and more girls are leaving education without basic literacy and numeracy skilled due to lack of access and affordability to sanitary Pads this is not fair.


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