By Mwaka Emmanuel Lutukumoi
“Educate a girl, educate the nation” is but a popular saying. Plan International has launched a concerted effort to redeem and promote girl child education in Northern Uganda, Lira in particular, with great emphasis on menstrual health management.
Research has shown that 10% of young girls between the age of 15-18 in Africa drop out of school because of lack of affordable menstrual pads. Menstruation becomes a nightmare and as such the unfortunately poor girls drop out of school.
If 10% of African girls drop out of schools because they cannot afford pads due to poverty, then Northern Uganda, a region that has no doubt had its painful shares of violent conflicts, a war that targeted an estimated 30,000 young girls and boys abducted, made slaves and combatants, a war that saw children deprived of parenthood and forced to be orphans, a war that has seen the phenomenon of children heading families “Child headed household phenomenon” then the percentage is very high and it further dogs girl child education in already disadvantaged society and group.
After the 2013 Uganda PLE and Olevel results were released, they showed that the girls still lag behind their male counterparts, a trend that can be reversed by promoting programmes that help keep girls at school.
The Government can help deliberately promote such programmes nationwide, and the first lady and incorporate it into her national programme of promoting save motherhood. This when reciprocated, the resultant effect will be improved education, boosted moral of girl child and above all improved and enhanced safe motherhood.
The menstrual health management (MHM) must now graduate from a civil society based approach to a national programme and policies that will not only advance education, but prove government’s resolve to improve education in general and girl child education. This requires huge political will from both the Government and other stake holders in development.
Many years after the war in Northern Uganda, the Government has put concerted efforts in rehabilitation and recovery, but seems the masses haven’t got the real deal.
With close monitoring, it is visible that the Government has put in billions of shillings on NUSAF1, NUSAF 2, programmes like NAADS, and now PRDP but seems graft from unscrupulous individuals has made people feel they are given a raw deal. Besides, the programme to enhance girl child education has not been vividly considered as prime strategy to enhance post war development.
In African traditional society, girls were considered marriage material, not fit to study. They were never considered highly.
Even if the Government ratified many national and international documents to promote girl child education, including having extra points added to girls joining University, as an affirmative action, menstrual health management must be adopted by our Parliament, promoted by the Government and embraced by all citizens.
By embracing this, the Government will be shooting two birds with a stone.
First of all political will by the Government will enhance the success of the programme, improve education and above all, improve on safe motherhood, and will, no doubt, reduce maternal death that occurs to every 16 women daily giving birth in Uganda.
Only best practice will ensure better future for women.