Keeping African girls in school
Did you know that 1 in 10 African girls drop out of school when they reach puberty? And the reason? They are unable to manage the changes in their body and don’t have access to sanitary pads.
Intrepid’s SAMA Project partner Plan’s Krissy Nicholson gives a first-hand account of a new project in Uganda designed to keep more girls in school with the simplest of solutions – Afripads, a re-usable, washable cloth pad.
“I was as high as a kite and my smile as wide as Africa when I recently returned from the green, rocky district of Tororo in eastern Uganda. This is where Plan is running an innovative program that will help around 100,000 women and girls to remain in school and generate an income.
I will never again take for granted my ability to buy pads and tampons, knowing that so many African girls drop out of school as a result of poor hygiene and lack of sanitary products. Girls have no place to wash at school, and often face embarrassing accidents which usually results in them skipping school.
Through this new program, Plan is working to educate girls, teachers and the broader community on female hygiene. We want to break down cultural taboos and support wider education on women’s health. To do this we have partnered with a social business called AfriPads, who make a re-usable, washable cloth pad appropriate for the African context – great for the girls and great for the environment.
Not only does access to the pads enable girls to stay in school, but with greater understanding of their bodies the girls can manage change, not fear what’s happening. Knowledge is power, the power to stay in school and control their own reproductive health.
There’s also an entrepreneurial aspect to the program. Local women are able to purchase the AfriPads at a subsidised price to sell to others and generate an income for themselves and their families. “With the money I saved, I built my house”, said a woman named Christine, patting the walls of the house we were sitting next to. It was the biggest house in the village with bricks and a corrugated iron roof, rather than the traditional round mud brick and straw huts that were a quarter of the size.
Another woman who introduced herself as Florence said, with her head held high: “I am a single mother and with the extra money, I am able to stand in my home like a man.” “Don’t you mean like a strong woman?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “With the power of a man. I have control of everything in the house and I am able to manage now.”
I was overwhelmed with wonder at how women with so little in the way of possessions and money can achieve so much. The female hygiene program will take women like this to another level so that they can build better lives for themselves and their families and keep their children in school. What a privilege to be a part of this!”
Intrepid’s Project SAMA is working to address issues of gender inequality. We are doing this through advocacy on the issues and support for a number of projects around the world. This includes support for Plan’s education projects in Uganda and Laos. You can learn more about and get behind Project SAMA here, or on Facebook
Or take our Kili Climb and rise to the challenge for gender equality!
Image: Plan, Plan International staff Sharon and Judith (back row) with members of the Village Savings and Loans Association group