In many parts of the world, girls do not go to school when they have their periods.
One reason for this is poverty: the cost of menstrual materials, such as sanitary pads, can be out of reach for many families. Other reasons for missing school stem from cultural beliefs and stigma surrounding menstruation.
Girls in situations of displacement are particularly affected, as they often live in environments in which menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) are not a priority.
As a result, refugee girls’ learning is continuously disrupted. Starting from primary school, girls begin dropping out due to several overlapping barriers. Many never transition to secondary education.
At JRS, we are tackling some of the barriers to girls’ access and retention in school by:
Providing MHH Materials & Supplies
Too often girls do not have the MHH materials and supplies that would allow them to experience their periods in a safe and relaxed manner.
Providing washable and reusable menstrual pads, together with other necessary supplies, such as soap, buckets, and storage bags, can be an immediate and effective way to restore dignity to girls and help them stay in school.
Girls having received MHH kits from JRS and partners in Dibina school, Lake Chad.
Building & Maintaining MHH Facilities
A comprehensive approach to MHH cannot stop at materials and supplies. For girls to take care of their menstrual health serenely, adequate and safe facilities are needed.
Within the school settings where JRS works, this means ensuring girl-friendly toilets and washing spaces. These must be safe and conveniently located, they must ensure privacy through doors and locks, and they should be equipped with waste disposal options, and good lightning.
Newly built girls’ dormitories at the Mungula Secondary School in the West Nile Region of Uganda.
The smaller building on the left is a female-friendly toilet.
Fostering MHH Education
Awareness and education abut menstrual health is key to making sure girls feel confident enough to go to school while on their periods.
Unfortunately, in many places, there are still myths and taboos about menstruation. Girls are not given the information they need to comfortably manage their periods. As a result, they may feel shame, embarrassment, guilt – even fear – when they begin menstruating. Stigma around menstruation can also lead to bullying and violence at school.
MHH education informs and empowers girls to feel more at ease with their periods and to take care of their health. To truly end the stigma surrounding menstruation, however, it is necessary to include boys and men in MHH education. This is key to creating a supportive school environment and community.
Student representatives write down MHH action points following a JRS training on the topic, Uganda.