The lives of girls at Nansaga Primary School in Bugiri District, Uganda have changed.
They used to miss up to one week of school every month when they menstruated, because they did not have appropriate sanitation facilities. But GOAL Uganda, with support from charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries, latrines were built and a water source provided in the school. Attendance has increased and children have formed health clubs where they learn about personal and menstrual hygiene. They are happier to go to school which will benefit their futures.
Meanwhile In Malawi, GOAL has supported the construction of inclusive washrooms in four schools in Nsnaje, providing girls with the space to manage their menstruation appropriately. Sanitation clubs have been formed to train both boys and girls in sanitation and hygiene. GOAL is also working with mothers’ groups, helping them to understand the importance of talking to their daughters about menstruation, and providing them with the practical skills necessary to design and produce home-made, reusable sanitary pads – first by hand, and now by machine.
In Malawi research has found that the lack of access to menstrual hygiene management products can result in girls being absent from school for up to five days each month; that’s almost a quarter of their learning time. It was this fact that initially triggered GOAL’s attention, and in 2017 a pilot programme was launched and aimed to promote positive menstrual hygiene management. GOAL hopes that the Government of Malawi, development partners, and women and girls themselves, can come together to break the taboos that surround menstruation, and to promote the integration of menstrual hygiene management into policies, programmes and practice at both local and national level.
The work of GOAL Uganda and GOAL Malawi is having a positive impact on hygiene and sanitation issues which hinder the lives of girls and women during menstruation. According to GOAL women and girls need to feel safe and comfortable in managing their periods whether at home, work or school. Young girls need information about what menstruation is, what it signals about their fertility, and how to safely handle it each month.
Creating a culture that welcomes open, honest discussion, and makes adequate information available to women and girls is of paramount importance.
Across the world, 51% of the female population is of reproductive age, meaning that at least 1.8 billion women and girls are currently in need of information, products, and private facilities to manage their menstruation. Having a period demands access to affordable, hygienic sanitary products; a discreet place to change or dispose of them; and water and cleaning products to wash hands, sanitary products, and stained garments.