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Periods Remain A Barrier to Education for Girls in Africa

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Did you know that one in ten school girls in Africa are missing in the classroom because of their periods?

Next week, on 28th May, the world will come together to show their support for Menstrual Hygiene Day. With the date nearing, the UK-based international development charity Fields of Life has taken the time to provide everyone with a reminder that there are still many girls on a global scale that are missing out on vital education merely due to their natural menstruation cycle. 

Most women will feel that their menstruation is little more than a nuisance they live to deal with. However, for the shockingly high number women and girls who don’t have access to basic hygiene and sanitation, it remains a massive cause of other health-related issues such as anxiety and stress along with a risk to not only their needs but their basic human rights too. This affects 1.2 billion females around the world right now! 

While efforts are being made to understand menstruation more to help girls and women, in some regions, including East Africa, periods are largely deemed to be a taboo, something that is unclean and can even be considered as a disease. The issue lies fundamentally at the doors of poor education and hygiene management, helping to stigmatise menstruation. As a result, girls are frequently either choosing or being forced to drop out of school because of the stresses and anxiousness that stems from the fear of being bullied, which is made worse due to the lack of sanitary items and the sub-standard washroom facilities available at their schools. 

This is highlighted in Uganda, where no fewer than 86% of girls repeatedly miss out on their education – or, in more severe cases, drop out entirely – because they are raised to believe that periods are something deeply shameful and embarrassing. 

Debbie Cameron, who is the Head of development and fundraising at Fields of Life GB was quoted as saying that while there are huge steps forward in terms of progress being made, the finish line is not yet in sight when it comes to education and eradication of the issues that surround menstruation. 

Fields of Life’s I AM GIRL Campaign

The goal of this particular campaign is to change the stigma that currently surrounds menstruation by educating both adolescent girls and boys, that there is absolutely nothing wrong, shameful or unclean with periods. Additionally, assisting and teaching thousands of girls how to create their own reusable menstrual pads and liquid soap is helping girls to practice safe and healthy hygiene, which will mean they are able to attend school more regularly. 

When discussing the issue, Debbie said to Charity Today: “No one should be made to feel ashamed or have to stop going to school and taking part in everyday activities because of menstruation. 

“Sanitary products are not available for many girls and women; some rely on homemade alternatives that are not always hygienic or absorbent which is not ok. 

“It is shocking that there are still some parts of the world where opportunities for girls and women are scarce, education is a luxury rather than a necessity and young girls are brought up believing that menstruation is shameful.” 

Fields of Life was established in Ireland in 1993. Since then, the charity has successfully raised approximately £30 million. This money has been used to help the team to build as many as 124 schools, as well as educate more than 50,000 children. What’s more, it has also helped fund the drilling of over 750 wells across East Africa.  

If you would like to help educate children in Africa by teaching in schools, why not take a look at our international volunteering programmes?


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