Philippa Jane Chapman is an ICS volunteer and youth reporter who has recently returned from her placement in Uganda. Whilst there, she and her team helped deliver awareness-raising programs to break the stigma around menstrual hygiene and other Sexual Health and reproductive rights.
Menstrual hygiene and other Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) topics are depicted as rather taboo in many rural communities throughout Uganda.
The Nakirubi girls of June and July 2019 were the first cycle of ICS volunteers to work with Victory Primary School through the ICS programme, delivering a range of SRHR topics to students.
Instructions for reusable sanitary pad makings on the blackboard at Victory Primary School
Amongst the SRHR curriculum, menstruation seemed to be one of the more embarrassing topics. The lack of SRHR education created myths and negative connotations around the natural changes young women face.
The miss communication and high cost of sanitary products throughout rural villages can lead to unhygienic menstrual practices such as using old rags.
The ICS sessions included teaching reusable sanitary pad making. The team educated four year groups on the method, with one student showcasing her skills at the annual science fair.
Reusable sanitary pads are much more environmentally friendly as they reduce plastic waste and cross-contamination in toilets. They are a low cost method of ensuring better hygiene amongst growing students.
Students from Victory Primary School making reusable sanitary pads.
Both male and female students participated in the pad making sessions, promoting inclusion amongst students, altering the gender stigma around menstruation. The multi gender conversation regarding menstruation strived to build confidence amongst the students contributing to female empowerment!
The implementation of reusable sanitary pads hopes to have an impact on female school absenteeism as young women in Uganda often stay home during their period.
Missing one week of school each month can be detrimental to a young girls education. The young women are often unable to catch up on missed work, preventing them from excelling in school. It can even lead to young girls leaving education completely.
Students from Victory Primary School learning about reusable sanitary pads.
Within the menstruation sessions, students identified the girls reluctancy to participate in school during their monthly bleed due to the bad toilet conditions This concern was then raised by the Social Accountability Club, who carried out research on the issue raised and created a set of recommendations which were then presented to the duty bearers of the school such as the headteacher, the PTA and the SMC. This resulted in all participants signing a promise to ignited change over the coming year.
Restless Development’s SRHR education has truly made a lasting impact on Victory Primary School, unifying both genders on menstruation and hygiene-related issues.