Girls’ education and performance affected
Something so natural and so satisfying has always turned to a nightmare to girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. Imagine dreading to go to school at a particular time of the month, imagine missing exams due to this uncontrollable factor that every woman should be proud of.
This is the ordeal our young women go through every month due to either poverty or lack of awareness. According to UNICEF, more than one in ten school girls in Sub-Saharan Africa skip school for more than a day when menstruating due to lack of awareness of affordable pads in the market.
In a report sent to The New Times Daily, Rwanda Association of University Women (RAUW) and US-based organization, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) recently had a meeting aimed at ensuring girls and women achieve the highest levels of education.
According to the report, the founder of Sustainable Health enterprises Elizabeth Scharpf attributed the trying economy as a whole to the lack of access to health and hygiene education and low-cost sanitary pads, which keep girls and women out of school and work. When you educate a woman, you educate the Nation.
In June and August last year, RAUW and SHE carried out a survey on 500 women girls and women on the issues surrounding menstruation. Their qualitative and quantitative assessment was amazing.
According to their random survey, when girls are menstruating, half of them are absent from school. The leading cause of their absence is that sanitary pads are too expensive.
The report also stated that while distribution and raw materials costs are obstacles in many other countries, Rwanda is one of the few East African countries that continues to levy a Value Added Tax on sanitary pads.
In 2009, the rate is 18%. While the VAT contributes to the tax treasury of Rwanda, the expensive sanitary pads has led to girls missing school.
This ultimately hinders their ability to gain additional skills, earn higher wages, and henceforth contributing to national resources through taxation of their wages later in life.
Acting President, Odette Mukazi Mutanguha, said that RAUW and SHE are planning to partner on mitigating the issue of sanitary pad prices so that girls and women no longer have to miss school and work.
Menstruation may seriously affect girls’ attendance, attention, and achievement in school in both rural and urban areas. The absence of clean and private sanitation facilities that allow for menstrual hygiene may discourage girls from attending school when they menstruate.
The stigma that comes along with this time of the month only makes matters worse. Boys should also learn or be taught to be a source of encouragement and understanding which is what the girls need instead of ridiculing them during this period.
The taboo of menstruation is rooted in our religions, culture, and history. Ancient history did not make it any easier either. In the Hebrew religion, a woman would not go to the synagogue during this period, as she was termed to be unholy or unclean before God.
In ancient Rome, it was said that contact with menstrual blood “turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens are dried up, the fruit of trees falls off, the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory are dulled.
The Quran declares that menstruating women “are a hurt and pollution.”
Indian women are exiled from their own homes. This kind of discrimination and ignorance remains to date. The only way to address this issue is by breaking the silence.
This issue should be addressed openly. The government should remove all taxes imposed on sanitary pads. This is an investment not only in women but to the economy as well.