Menstrual Health Management: Keep A Girl In School Campaign

Uganda is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which clearly spells out that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education”. This position is further re-emphasized by the 1995 Uganda constitution which promotes equitable provision of educational services and mandates government to take the necessary measures to eliminate all forms discrimination and inequalities so as to realize sustainable inclusive growth and development.

The government of Uganda has put in place laws, policies and programmes to ensure universal access to education for both boys and girls and as such, the enrolment of girls and boys in school has increased tremendously. For example, with the introduction of Universal Primary Education in 1997, the enrolment was at 5.3 million[1] while in 2007, 7,537,971 and in 2016 the enrolment leaped to 8,655,924[2]. However, these government programmes do not fully take into consideration the different gender needs of boys and girls and as such, more girls than boys have dropped out of school. There has been notable number of dropout of primary pupils due to the unaffordable cost of schooling, teenage pregnancy, early marriages and poor menstrual hygiene management among others. There was also anecdotal evidence from FOWODE records strongly linking poor menstrual hygiene management to increased cost of schooling (for example buying of sanitary towels to keep girls in school) increased teenage pregnancy and early marriages.

 Menstruation is an integral and normal part of human life, indeed of human existence. Menstrual hygiene is fundamental to the dignity and wellbeing of women and girls and an important part of the basic hygiene, sanitation and reproductive health services to which every woman and girl has a right (SNV 2015). Women and girls in rural settings and in particular girls in schools suffer most from stigma and lack of services and facilities to help them cope with the physical and psychological pains they undergo during their menstrual periods.

Currently the means of coping for girl pupils is the use of manufactured or self-made sanitary towels using cotton wool, old cloth, dirty napkins and other un-hygienic materials. Studies have shown a lack of sustainable menstrual hygiene management support for the girls, from basics such as suitable facilities to psychological support for girls dealing with menstruation.

It is therefore against this background that Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) is conducting a media campaign with the aim of influencing government and community effort to keep girls in school. FOWODE seeks to promote equitable benefit for women, men, boys and girls from government policies and programmes by engaging in gender and economic policy issues, building a critical mass of young leaders for transformative leadership; enhancing the capacities of women to equally participate in decision making process; and hold government accountable. This is with the aim to promote gender responsive service delivery.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the mid-year 2018 population estimates are 39,518,672 of which 51% are females and 49 males. The proportion of females and males in the population is reflected in the total enrolment at primary; 50.3% – girls and 49.7% – boys. However, this is not the reflection as females and males climb the academic ladder due to the socio-cultural and economic barriers they face along their carrier. A review of the Education and Sports Sector data[3] revealed that 36.7% of the girls who enroll in the first grade of any given school year will not be able to reach grade 5. A deeper analysis also revealed that over 140,000 more girls than boys drop out from grade 5 to grade 7.  A review of the same data unveiled that 67.7% of the girls who enroll in grade 1 of a given school year will not reach grade 7. Also, over 46,000 more girls than boys drop out during grade 7. According to study by Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020, only 35% of women (15 -49 years) in Uganda report having everything they need to manage their menstruation, implying that the majority of women are unable to adequately meet their MHM needs. According to study by SNV (2015), about half of the girl pupils reported missing 1-3 days of primary school per month. This translates into a loss of 8 to 24 school days per year. This means per term a girl pupil may miss up to 8 days of study. On average, there are 220 learning days in a year and missing 24 days a year translates into 11% of the time a girl pupil will miss learning due to menstrual periods. Also, over 60% of the girl pupils absent themselves from school during their menstruation. In addition, a total of 70% of the head teachers and 80% of the senior head teachers stated that they are not satisfied with menstrual facilities at their schools.

These practical gender and strategic gender problems present negative impacts to girls in their personal lives and development opportunities: restrictions on schooling and mobility, increased fears and tensions, early marriage, early and premature childbirth and higher infant mortality, and potential vaginal infections resulting in the worst case in infertility. There is therefore need to improve menstrual hygiene management to keep girls in school giving them the opportunity to study well, make better choices later in life that affect their well-being and livelihoods.

  • Purpose of the campaign

The purpose of this campaign is therefore to increase government and community efforts to keep girls in school.

  • Specific objectives
  • To raise public awareness on the value of girl child education
  • To increase resource allocation to girl child education.

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