Civil society activists have launched a campaign to help school-going teenage girls get free sanitary towels in order to reduce primary school drop-outs.
The campaign dubbed; “Girls in control: Keep girls in school, provide them with sanitary pads,” was launched at Parliament yesterday as one of the events to mark International Menstrual Hygiene Day.
The campaign also hopes to sensitise stakeholders about re-usable pads.
While handing over the petition to the Parliamentary Forum on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, the activists said the teenagers, especially in rural areas, fail to attend class regularly because they cannot afford the cost of pads while others fear being embarrassed since the rugs they use as pads are unreliable.
“We have observed just like the Ministry of Education acknowledged that one of the impacts of menstruation is the lower attendance of girls during menstruation days and school drop-out at the onset of menstruation,” Mr Ali Satya Chemisto, the Netherlands Development Organisation adviser on water and sanitation, said.
A standard packet of pads costs Shs2,500 and one requires between two and four packets depending on how heavy their periods are. Mr Chemisto presented results from a study conducted between 2002 and 2003 on menstrual management in seven districts which revealed that half of the girls interviewed missed one to three days of primary school every month.
“This translates into a loss of eight to 24 days per year. This means per term, a girl may miss up to eight days of study. On average, there are 220 learning days in a year and missing 24 days translates into 11 per cent of the time a girl will miss due to menstrual periods,” he said. “ The Ministry of Education should incorporate menstrual management indicators in monitoring and evaluation systems for primary schools,” Mr Chemisto said.
Last year, government announced a programme that would see primary school-going adolescents get free sanitary pads. The deputy commissioner for reproductive health in Education, Dr Collins Tusingwire, said the government was committed to girl cause. He, however, remained non-committal as to when the programme to provide free sanitary pads would start.