By Abou Kisige
GOVERNMENT in conjunction with SNV Uganda has started skilling pupils in making sanitary pads to curb female pupils’ absenteeism from school during menstrual periods.
The pilot project targets pupils mainly girls from Primary 3 to Primary 7 who are being taught by their teachers how to make pads. The girls will in turn teach their fellow pupils.
The function was officially launched at Kyembogo Primary School in Kyenjojo district in Western Uganda recently where pupils presented to the participants samples of the pads they had so far made.
According to a study by the International Water and Sanitation Centre and SNV Uganda, female students mostly in rural areas stay away from school for at least eight days of study in a school term because of menstrual periods.
The research further shows that on average a school girl misses 24 days representing an 11 percent total of the 220 learning days in a year.
The Assistant Commissioner for Pre-Primary Education in the ministry of Education, Tolbert Agobe said the menstrual periods have greatly affected the academic performance of the girl child.
“There is a lot of absenteeism when female pupils are in their menstrual periods and some of the pupils have continued to drop out. Some could experience their period at school without pads yet the school and some parents could not provide them,” Agobe said
“With the help of development partners our efforts should be geared towards skilling pupils in making their own low cost sanitary pads so that we keep the children in school,” Agobe said.
Assistant Commissioner for Pre-Premary Education Tolbert Agobe and the Head Teacher of Kyembogo Primary School Francis Kato (right) during the launch of the Low Cost sanitary towels program. Photo by Abou Kisige
“Parents and schools should start producing reusable sanitary pads from local materials which will help improve hygiene among adolescent girls in both primary and secondary schools,” Agobe said.
According to SNV Uganda’s Senior Advisor on Agriculture and Regional Coordinator, Felix Kazahura, the pads are made of towering flex form and washable fabric which makes them safe and healthy.
“As long as the girls wash the pads properly and do not share them, they are determined to be safe. We have consulted with international doctors, gynaecologists and nurses about them.” Kazahura said.
Kazahura said similar projects are reported to have helped keep girls in schools in many African countries, including Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
He said communities have been able to construct facilities such as teachers’ houses, latrines, bath-shelters, kitchens and rest rooms for girls through their engagements with SNV Uganda.
The Kyenjojo District Education Officer, Gertrude Tibakanya asked government to remove taxes on materials like refined cotton, towels and already made pads to increase access to the sanitary towels.
“Government has delayed to scrap taxes on sanitary pads. Scrapping taxes would make the pads cheaper for women to access and improve on sanitation,” Tibakanya said.