Too many girls and young women miss school because they don’t have sanitary products.
So what is period poverty and why does is matter? Period poverty is when girls miss school because they do not have access to and/or cannot afford sanitary products and have poor knowledge about the changes that happen to them as they enter puberty.
Very, very many girls don’t go to school for a week each month during their period. They get behind on school work because they don’t understand or cannot keep up. They drop out. 4.8% of primary school students are leaving school each year, and the repetition rate of dropping out is high. 7 out of 10 children enrolled in Nepal’s school reach grade 5, according to UNESCO. More than half of those children drop out of school before reaching the secondary school. In rural communities these statistics are so much higher.
The effects of period poverty
The short and long term effects are shocking. Girls, especially those in rural communities, who drop out of school early often end up in an arranged marriage. By early marriage, we’re talking about age 14 onwards. That’s year 9 and 10 for us in the UK. It is not only early marriage that is a consequence for these girls. Childbirth for these young girls soon after having their first period causes frequent medical complications. At that early age, their bodies are just not developed enough to cope with childbirth. Furthermore, the lack of education on this topic means an inability to progress and develop or change their own or family opportunity for the better.
What’s the solution?
One way of helping these girls and young women is to educate them about menstrual health and provide each girl with a menstrual hygiene kit that includes reusable sanitary products. An often asked question is “why not just buy sanitary products every month?” The answer is simple. Disposable sanitary ware does not work in rural communities. Most of these rural families live hand to mouth and do not have the money to spend on sanitary products every month.
In Your Hands (IYH) is a charity benefiting communities in Nepal. It has a Women’s Health Project to combat this very problem. One of the charity’s aims is to educate these communities about menstrual hygiene and health to enable all girls to stay in school for every week of the month. Its strategy involves partnering with an organisation called Days For Girls, based in Nepal, to deliver health workshops in the local language and distribute reusable sanitary kits.
IYH wants to help not only the children in the government schools the charity supports but also the communities they live in. They are doing this by extending the benefits of the programme to all the women in the communities the charity works with. Extending the programme to all of these women is important because the success of the project relies on the support of the older women to encourage and ensure the girls use them.
IYH rolled out its first three menstrual hygiene workshops at the end of November 2018 to educate these girls and women about menstrual health and hygiene. They provided a reusable sanitary pack to every woman and girl who attended a workshop. Each pack is about £8 and a postnatal pack for women to use after childbirth is £10. These packs enable women to work during their periods and enable girls to go to school.
– Sophie Hudson, year 13