By Moses Walubiri
Mifumi – an international non-government women’s rights organization based in Uganda wants the issuance of sanitary pads and painkillers to girls in schools made compulsory to help stem the tide of girls dropping out of schools.
In a petition yesterday to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, Mifumi says the inconvenience girls especially in rural schools endure while menstruating forces them to skip school which eventually forces many to drop out altogether.
Dubbed sure start, Mifumi’s new initiative for better menstrual hygiene management is targeting girls in rural schools at risk of quitting school.
“Presently, many girls are forced to absent themselves from school during their menstrual periods for a variety of reasons one of which is lack of access to sanitary pads. Many times, when girls start their menstrual periods, there are no emergency sanitary pads availed by the school administration,” Mifumi’s Leah Eryewu told Oyam South MP, Betty Amongi who represented Kadaga.
Amongi is the chairperson of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) – a body that provides a forum for Women MPs to discuss, share experiences and support activities that would enhance women’s participation and effective leadership in all dimensions of politics.
Eryewu said girls in less privileged background have their “self-esteem shattered” by menstruation as fear of staining their clothes due to lack of sanitary pads limit their participation in class and extracurricular activities.
“Even in situations where girls do have sanitary pads, there are no rooms in which to change comfortably. Many times they have to do it in toilets which are usually filthy or without doors,” Eryewu noted.
Mifumi officials had close to 15 pupils from schools in Tororo whose concerns Eryewu said are a microcosm of the challenges girls in rural schools face.
Anna Mary Gift, a senior one student at Tororo Girls School made a case for free compulsory sanitary pads in schools citing incidents where girls use old newspapers or pluck out papers from their books to use as sanitary pads.
“I don’t think girls are naturally weak academically. Girls skip school during menstruation yet boys have no such problems,” Ana Mary said, calling for increase of capitation grant to girls under Universal Primary/Secondary schools to better manage their menstrual hygiene.
Amongi who had UWOPA members – Margaret Komuhangi and Sarah Lanyero in tow – said the relevant committees of parliament will handle the petition.
In May as part of activities to mark International Menstruation Day, Kadaga made a case for government to support menstrual hygiene by providing sanitary pads to all female school going children “in order to improve their health, education and dignity as girls and women in society.”
After years of campaigning by lawmakers and human rights activist, inmates in Ugandan prisons are provided free sanitary pads.