RAKOD Foundation, a Non-Governmental and Non-Profit making Organisation has taken its Menstrual Hygiene Project to the Sabena M/A Basic School in the Central Region with a call on stakeholders in the educational sector to ensure access to safe and affordable menstrual products.
According to the Foundation, access to menstrual products is a major challenge for women and girls in rural communities especially, and that affects the education of the girl child.
Speaking in an interview at the sidelines of the event, the Founder of RAKOD Foundation, Randy Danquah indicated that Gender Equality in education is not only about getting into school but about what happens in classrooms to enable girls and boys benefit equally.
He mentioned that quality high-school education can transform a girl’s future, yet around the world, many adolescent girls miss school or even drop out altogether because of menstruation.
Randy Danquah observed that schools often lack the supplies and sanitation facilities girls need for managing their periods and that girl without adequate health care may feel discomfort or pain.
“Shame, stigma and misinformation may discourage girls from attending school while menstruating and prevent schools from teaching healthy attitudes about menstruation. Many girls stay home to avoid being teased. For girls growing up in deprived communities, the challenges are even greater.
He also said lack of menstrual knowledge, poor access to sanitary products and a non-facilitating school environment can make it difficult for girls to attend school and that government and other stakeholders must put in place interventions to reduce the burden of menstruation for school girls.
“NGOs like us must identify challenges related to menstruation, and we must be able to get facilitators who will engage school children boy boys and girls on the topic. This way we will be breaking some of the myths surrounding menstruation and be able to keep the girl child in the classroom,” he said.
RAKOD Volunteers who educate the students on Menstrual Hygiene noted that many girls greet their first periods with alarm, without knowing anything at all about menstruation.
They said, in some rural communities local superstitions prevent menstruating girls from going to school, looking in the mirror, trimming their nails or touching flowers, fruit, drinking water or pickles, among other things.
Some communities, they averred, still follow the traditional custom of sending menstruating girls to live alone in unheated huts, leaving them vulnerable to exposure to the cold, smoke inhalation and attacks by animals, with sometimes fatal results.
According to Ama Nyantakyiwaa, a RAKOD Volunteer, lack of accurate information leaves room for confusion and embarrassment, the repercussions of which can be far-reaching for girls and their communities.
She also said, in order to achieve gender equality, it is important that girls can attend and reach their full potential in schools, hence inadequate options for menstrual hygiene recently received attention as a barrier to education for girls in low and middle income countries.
“It is also a fact that poor sanitation in schools and lack of access to good quality sanitary products can be associated with lower enrolment in schools, absenteeism, and dropout. Inadequate menstrual hygiene can potentially have health consequences such as increased risk of reproductive and urinary tract infections,” she said, adding that the problem of menstrual hygiene is multifaceted; girls need to be aware and be able to manage their menstruation in an enabling environment with access to hygienic menstrual materials and facilities for changing and disposal of menstrual items at home and school.
She said the time to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential is NOW!
“Without safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities at home, in school or at work, it is harder for women and girls to lead safe, productive and healthy lives.
Safe water supply and improved sanitation facilities are especially important as women have specific hygiene needs during menstruation, pregnancy and child-rearing,” she advised.