Across the Rwenzori region, there are girls who cannot afford disposable sanitary pads or are too ashamed of their menstruation to ask for help. TDF works extensively with young women and encounter these problems throughout schools and communities.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2012),good Menstrual Hygiene Management is defined as access to necessary resources (e.g. menstrual materials to absorb or collect menstrual blood effectively, soap and water), facilities (a private place to wash, change, and dry re-usable menstrual materials in privacy during menstruation, and an adequate disposal system for menstrual materials, from collection point to final disposal point), and education about MHM for males and females.
Case stories from some of our target beneficiaries (12–17 year olds) in primary schools revealed that they miss up to eight days of study each school term because they are on their periods. This was due to lack of sanitary pads, and bullying by peers. The eight days on average translates into 11% of the total learning days in a year. It’s a school absence rate that is hard for the girls to make up for and partly accounts for girls dropping out of school. Most of the girls said that they used a piece of cloth called “kitenge” which they got from their mothers, while others improvised with the cloth nappies used by their younger siblings. Some girls even used dry leaves to try to soak up the blood in emergency situations. Not only are these girls dealing with a lack of materials, they are also stigmatized by cultural attitudes that associate menstruation with being dirty. Many girls grow up dreading their period because of this kind of social stigma, as well as the lack of services and facilities to help them.
Turi kumwe Development Foundation responds to these challenges by training girls how to make reusable sanitary pads as a tool to aid sanitation, teach about sexual health, and empower girls to be independent. 50 school health clubs have been engaged in these capacity building trainings to enable them and other peers learn how to sew and make reusable sanitary pads, and also acquire extra skills including making handicrafts. Additionally, professional tailors are identified and engaged to train the girls and women to advance the process of making more reusable sanitary pads available to more women and girls within their household communities. This also enables girls and women gain confidence in themselves and their products, and take pride in teaching other peers how to make the sanitary pads.