“Menstruation time was the worst time at school. My school uniform would be stained with blood sometimes dripping on the classroom floor, making my male classmates laugh at me,’’ 14-year-old Phillies Akello, a Primary Six pupil at Agwata Primary School, Dokolo shares.
According to information at the Dokolo District education office, more than 70 primary school girls drop out of school due to menstruation-related cases annually.
The problem is so widespread that the Parliamentary Forum for Women recently reported that there is an increased number of girls in villages dropping out of school due to lack of sanitary towels.
But by the look of things, this trend is about to be reversed in Dokolo District. The renewed hope came from Caritas Lira, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
Experts from the NGO pitched camp in the Okwalongen, Amwoma, Bata and Dokolo sub-counties where 560 locals were trained in making reusable sanitary towels out of clothes rage and ordinary polythene papers.
Lira Caritas director, Father George Ogwal, told Daily Monitor that they responded to this community after assessing their needs. He added, “After learning how to make these towels, the locals can use them for the crucial time and also sell others to raise money to support their basic needs like books, medical care, emergencies and soap for the children and family usage respectively.”
As Father Ogwal explains, the technology is simple. To make the pad, a piece of fairly hard polythene paper is wrapped with a piece of cotton material before being hand sewn to keep the combination intact.
The towel is horizontally placed inside a girl’s pants. And a string is sewn to the towel to fasten it to the lower part of the knickers and to also hold it firm. The cotton and polythene make the pads leak-proof.
With the skills from the training, some of the women are retailing the towels at Shs15,000. Certainly this price is a tad too expensive for the average person but the fact that the pad can be reused for a year is motivation enough.
This move has been applauded by health experts in the district who said this would help reduce school-dropouts since many girls opted to stay at home during their monthly periods to avoid humiliation for lack of towels.
On his part, Dokolo chairperson JB Okello Okello said such trainings are needed in to help the district deliver better services to the people. He said, “As a district local government, we do not have adequate resources to do all these things and that is why we need partners especially in matters of livelihood and education.”
Raw materials and usage
A single pad can be used for up to nine hours before being changed. After washing and drying the pad, it is ready for reuse. The beauty about these pads is that the materials used in making them can be easily obtained within the district.
Dokolo District is among the leading farmers of cotton in the country. For the polythene, residents have opted for used alcohol sachets at local shops.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, last year called upon government to roll out the towels in primary schools to check on the school-dropout turnout due to lack of sanitary towels.
But while we await the government to implement this proposal, the people in Dokolo District can afford to sigh with relief because they have been able to address two recurring issues at ago, through the training. Their female adolescents can attend school without fear of stains and they have also acquired a skill that can improve their livelihood.