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Her Africa: Menstrual hygiene education, solution to girls’ school absenteeism

With the part of observation in mind, Her Africa Initiative, a local philanthropic movement that started as a collaborative project between LAS Consultancy and Mint has seen the importance of enlightening the girl-child and advocating for an hygienic education to them.

Through various series of projects it aims at working towards empowering and inspiring young women and girlchild through series of workshops which impact knowledge, skills and provide tools to girls and young women from different backgrounds on how to feel at home even if not homely wherever they are.

According to Las Consultancy Ltd Co-Founder, Salha Kibwana and Her Africa team, after sharing experience with students at Makumbusho Secondary School, research indicates that school girls who cannot afford the sanitary pads miss many school days in a year and the best option is that they ought to be enlightened on their menstrual cycles and hygiene.

She further illustrates that UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle that translates as much as 20 per cent off a given school year.

Her question is: “Should young girls miss 20 per cent of school days in a given year due to lack of facilities, information or lack of sanitary products in schools? “No, the solution lays on menstrual hygiene education in schools” she poses adding that “through our programmes and workshops, Her Africa is able to provide access to adequate information, preparation, and support to adolescent girls in schools on how to manage menstruation in a healthy, safe, and dignified manner."

She said with efforts to educate adolescent girls on menstrual and personal hygiene, a full day workshop at Makumbusho Secondary School was organised by Her Africa and SISA Community Health Centre from Mwananyamala.

The workshop was in the form of a dialogue session where different speakers shuffled through classes to address problems and topics such as personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene, and reproductive health.

Carol Ndosi, amongst the speakers and being a serial entrepreneur and a social activist, managed to empower the girls by sharing her journey to success. The girls’ faces lit up as Ms Ndosi’s journey was described and brought hope to them that they can also rise to life and boldly face challenges and gender inequalities.

That made a student, Salma Kassim, there receive the stuff from Human Cherish representative named only as Hilda with a big smile as well as for her sisters. Though most students shy away from ‘sex talks’ as pointed out by Dr Christina M Kiondo, she made sure the topic was up for discussion at Makumbusho Secondary School. During the occasion, she explained to the consequences of early child pregnancies and how it may lead to several health problems and destroy families.

That made the girls to be opened up for the talk and interacted positively with chants of "Say No to Sex”. With approach of visiting such institutions, Her Africa has started also ‘free dialogues’ to reach more public schools, organisations, government bodies and companies so that solutions are found on how to end absenteeism of girl-child in schools when they are in their cycles.

The institution along the race has therefore come to realise that government can also be part of the solution proactively by subsidizing the costs of sanitary towels to the students or as policymakers. Equally, different stakeholders should also push for a special budget that will support free sanitary towels to the students in public schools.

According to a Form four student at Makumbusho Secondary School Salma Kassim, 17, nothing takes away her ‘confidence’ like being in that period of the month.

“Apart from the painful cramps, it’s dreaded time of the month because I cannot afford to buy sanitary towels too,” she adds.

She says her family can only afford a pack per month for her and her sisters whom they have to share/ split amongst the three of them implying that the rest of the days she has to re-use Khanga pieces as sanitary towels.

Or during some days, she decides to stay at home just like some other girls so as to avoid ‘embarrassment’ in case she stains her school skirt.

Author: Siftah Ramadhan

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