Tuesday 1 September 2015

Girls and women of all ages in this district still have a very limited say over their lives and in particular over their sexuality. Hence facing a number of problems among which include; the expense of commercial sanitary pads; absenteeism where girls stay at home rather than attending school when menstruating; inadequate menstral waste disposal facilities; lack of privacy for changing menstrual materials; leakage from poor-quality menstral protection materials; the lack of resources for washing such as soap and water, limited education about the facts of menstruation; limited access to counseling and guidance; fear caused by cultural myths; embarrassment and low self esteem; and the unsupportive attitudes of some mothers, fathers and teachers. Most of them aredisempowered by the simple biological process of menstruation, affordable and hygienic sanitary protection is not available to girls in many areas hence  resorting  to the use of unhygienic rags and cloths which put them at the risk of infections. The education of these children is critical for Uganda’s economic development. Educating girls is widely regarded as one of the best ways to improve the economy and health of developing countries since Educated girls are more likely to become empowered women; they are more likely to take control of their lives, have proper economic security decissions, and raise manageable and healthier children who will in turn be  be educated.
Girls, however, consistently perform poorly academically than boys. Academic performance is closely correlated with school attendance, and absenteeism, and dropout rates are high for rural Ugandan girls.  Studies have shown that these high rates are often linked to their reproductive biology. A recent survey on menstruating girls in East Africa found that “the biggest numbers of school dropouts are girls because of inconveniences during their menstrual periods.” (source water supply &sanitation collaborative council, wsscc 2014). The government of Uganda provides “free” primary education for all children up through Primary 7.About 65% of women and girls in Uganda cannot afford sanitary pads. Evidence suggests that the period around puberty is one in which many girls drop out of school or are absent from school for significant periods of time. Limited access to safe, affordable, convenient and culturally appropriate methods for dealing with menstruation has far reaching implications for rights and physical, social and mental well-being of many adolescent girls in Uganda and other developing countries as well. It undermines sexual and reproductive health and well-being and has been shown to restrict access to education. Faced with the complete lack of sanitary pads, this can only mean that the girls miss school for considerable period of time and this has negative impact on the quality of learning they receive, their overall academic performance, their retention and transition through the education system.
The inaccessibility of menstrual products results in embarrassment, anxiety and shame when girls and women stain their clothes, which is stigmatizing. Once girls start missing school they are far more likely to be exposed to other risks such as early pregnancy and marriage, HIV/AIDS and others. Increasing girl’s completion of education cycles is a critical component of efforts to build their wider empowerment and in particular for ensuring that they are more able to be involved in decision making over all aspects of their lives including over their reproductive and sexual health rights. Additionally, inaccessibility of menstrual products compromises the effective uptake of family planning services. This is occasioned by the fact that girls who cannot afford the disposable sanitary towels more often are more at risk of manipulation by men who promise to provide them with the money to buy the pads. Eventually they are forced to have sexual relationship which ultimately leads to unwanted pregnancies and further risks of maternal and child health related problems as they are normally not prepared to take care of children at these early ages.

Alliance for sustainable Health and Wealth in Africa (ASHWA) is a youth led voluntary humanitarian, non-governmental, non-profit organization  founded with the intention of scaling up programs and projects for service delivery to individuals, households and communities in Africa to holistically address and alleviate suffering within their livelihood. ASHWA supports women youth and children in Africa at large striving for a community of empowered people living with respect and dignity.By way of improving their livelihood while promoting self-reliance through education support, Reproductive health services, Water and Sanitation,environment protection, advocating for the rights of orphans and vulnerable children, food security , gender equality and Networking.
As a community benefit organization in Busia Uganda, we are currently  implementing menstrual hygiene activities where we train young women and girls  in Social enterprise delivering health education and selling  reusable sanitary padsat relatively affordable prices , Women’s group making and informally selling pads to local communities, Women and girls making pads for own use ,Womens group offering training to others , School program where girls, boys and teachers are trained to make pads, deliver health education,distribute reusable pads and sell reusable products at a low cost.