Menstruation is a natural part of life and a common experience for women and girls around the world. Many of us are privileged enough that our time of the month is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But practical concerns, in addition to shame and stigma, make menstruation a serious challenge and a barrier to education for girls in Lira district in northern Uganda.
Without the proper sanitary supplies, girls are fearful of staining their clothes and being mocked by boys. Instead, they stay home and miss out on class and exams, which puts them at risk of falling behind and eventually dropping out of school. A 2013 study by a Dutch aid group indicated that half of Ugandan school girls reported missing 1-3 days of school per month due to menstruation. That means girls are missing up to 24 school days per year. Accumulating menstrual absences make it harder for girls to stay in school at the same rate as boys, as Juliet herself observed at Akiya.
An article from the Guardian shed some light on the situation, quoting Lira girls in their own words:
“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes… Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” – Joan Anyango, a 16-year-old student in Ayito primary school in Lira
“When I started menstruating, I had many hard days,” she says. “I could not get myself any materials to use to stop myself from soiling my clothes. It was better for me to stay at home rather than go through that shame at school.” – Auma Milly, Lira district, had to repeat a year at primary school after she missed her final exams because of her period
Various aid groups have undertaken a range of approaches to the problem, but a comprehensive solution has yet to be reached. One day, we hope to see universal access to wash facilities and sanitary supplies so that women and girls are free from the constraints of menstruation. In the mean time, we’ve created Over the Moon because the girls of Akiya Primary School deserve immediate access to reliable menstrual pads so they can focus on their studies instead of worrying about menstrual woes. We designed the project based on input from the community and local leaders so that it best meets the needs of the girls.
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