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“The request. The girls want MPs to draft law compelling all schools to provide girls with sanitary pads and painkillers”.

In a desperate attempt to stay in school, girls last Thursday narrated how they are forced to rip pages out of their books to use as an alternative to sanitary towels.

The students partly blamed the high school dropout rate on lack of sanitary towels to keep them in class during their menstrual periods.

Speaking on behalf of hundreds of stranded girls across the country, 1,200 girls from Tororo schools, in their petition to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, said the agony they go through during menstruation periods opens them up to ridicule and bullying from boys, adding that the fear of staining one’s clothes and the shame they endure “when it happens” affects their self-esteem and confidence, forcing many of them to opt out of class or sports activities.

The girls have demanded that the government through the ministry of Education increases funding for menstrual health management in all schools across the country so that their menstrual health is properly managed. They have also demanded that painkillers be distributed in schools.

Ms Idah Nabunnya, an official from Mifumi, a non-governmental organisation, who helped the girls to get their petition to Parliament, said: “This is extremely humiliating and uncomfortable for many girls mostly because of the risk of staining their dresses since the padding is not sufficient.”

“Increasing funding will accelerate the implementation of facilities that guarantee a dignified and healthy menstrual experience for girls, opening up space for them to compete fairly with boys and enabling them to reach their full potential,” the petition backed by Mifumi says.

When contacted, Education minister Jessica Alupo said: “We are sensitising parents to provide all those [sanitary towels and painkillers] to girls as a matter of priority”

The UNICEF 2005 report estimates that one in 10 school-age African girls does not attend school during menstruation or drop out at puberty because they lack clean and private sanitation facilities.

A standard packet of pad costs Shs2,500. In 2013, government announced a grand programme that would see primary school-going adolescents get free sanitary pads.

What girls want

- All schools must provide girls with sanitary pads and painkillers,

- Integrating menstrual needs in designing sanitary facilities which would require construction of changing rooms and provision of a water source next to the facility.

- Mandating each school to have a senior woman teacher to cater to girls’ needs one of which is menstruation.

 

Source: By Yasiin Mugerwa

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