Monday, March 1, 2010
Study Shows Free Hygiene Supplies Aid in Overcoming Menstruation as a Barrier to School
A recent study done by Linda Scott of Oxford's Said Business School demonstrates that menstruation is a significant barrier precluding Ghanaian girls from school, and that free menstrual supplies given to secondary school girls have been proven effective in overcoming that barrier. The study found that girls who were given pads reduced absenteeism from 21 percent to 9 percent. Scott stated:
"We think this problem is going to surface–and the effect of the intervention felt–throughout the developing world. What creates the underlying problem is, as I am sure you know, the fact that the community does not recognize the value of female education to beging with, second, that the topic is not talked about, and third, that there is an assumption that whatever method the mother or grandmother used should suffice (though neither of them probably went to school). Some in international aid have a reaction that might be summarized as “this is a trivial thing–why are we wasting our time talking about feminine napkins?” It is my hope that through this work, and any press attention to it, we can change the dismissive attitudes that some aid professionals have toward the problem (one that is as much about dignity and sexual safety as it is about school)." (see source here)
Cost and lack of availability are two cited reasons why rural girls in poor countries go without sanitary protection. What’s more, Professor Scott states that girls are perceived differently once menstruation begins.
“Part of the problem is that the onset of menstruation in remote areas of Ghana is taken as signifying the coming of actual adulthood in a way that we don’t recognize it in the West. We don’t think of a 12 or 13-year-old girl as being marriageable or sexually available. But actually in this context it’s a signal that she’s both,” she says.
A girl without sanitary protection faces serious consequences.
“Her biggest problem is that if people know about this it’s not just an embarrassment and a laughing matter. It’s something that may actually put her in danger. And at this time also families often feel it’s time to withdraw their economic support for the girl to continue in school. So she suddenly starts having quite a bit less support for her continuing education,” she says. (VOA News, source located here).
Scott stressed the importance of preventing girls from dropping out: “There is quite a lot of data at this point to show that it has positive impact on economic development and productivity. But in particular, very quick impact on fertility rates, infant mortality, disease transmission, nutritional level and of course just generally improve the individual girl’s chances of having a happy and prosperous life."
Her research is a direct and wonderful support to our work here at Grow Learn Give: “To overcome community beliefs about the unimportance of educating girls will take at least a generation of intense effort on the part of NGOs and governments, but the simple intervention of educating the girl about her period and providing her with a reliable, clean, and private way to manage it, could have a dramatic impact on female educational achievement within only a few years.”
Her conclusions are that government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide free sanitary protection could aid in ensuring girls' education in a cost-effective way. She also pointed out that these programs would be most effective with a culturally sensitive approach. She concludes by stressing that communities need to be made aware of the importance of secondary education for girls (VOA News).
To read more about the article, click here.