Pads to empower girls

Photo by Star for Life. Used under Creative Commons license.

No Pads – No School

Every month thousands of Namibian girls miss an average of three school days because they have no sanitary pads to use during menstruation. Girls are missing more school than boys due to lack of availability of pads in villages, too expensive pads/tampons, or because girls are not able to ask their parents for money to buy pads or tampons as the subject of menstruation is taboo.

This is a very big issue which leads to increasing inequality, girls not performing as good as they could and falling behind in schoolwork. Some girls even drop out of school altogether. Girls also find ways to get money to pay for sanitary towels, some even exchange sexual favors.

Sister Namibia believes that every girl deserves education, safety, and dignity. No girl should have to stay home from school because she can’t afford pads. By eliminating the barriers to attending school, girls are empowered and have the ability to excel and complete their education.

During 2014 Sister Namibia is launching a campaign to help girls gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene and awareness. This will be done by directly distributing sustainable feminine hygiene kits and doing workshops on “Reaching Your Full Potential”, as girls can have up to 12 extra weeks per year to not miss out on lessons or opportunities.

If you want to contribute to our cause, please contact us!

The reality of school girls in Rundu, as told by peace corps volunteer Lori

(Abstract from article in Sister Namibia magazine June 2013 vol. 25 # 2)

“Madam, my skirt is not OK,” Anna told me at the end of a school day in February 2010. She stood shyly with her back against the classroom wall.
“What do you mean?” I asked her, not immediately understanding what was wrong with her skirt.
“My menstruation”, was all she told me in explanation. She turned around to show me the stain that had been spreading for hours on her skirt, but there had been nothing she could do.
“Wait a minute, I’ll bring a shitenge,” I told her as I left the classroom to quickly go to my house. She wrapped herself in it and went home. I didn’t see her for two days.

Patti proved a promising grade six learner. I learned that she lived only with her younger sister and their grandmother who didn’t work. In grade seven, she began regularly missing school and her studies suffered. On a Thursday in period four, math class, she called me over to her table.
“Madam, my menstruation.” She had no pads with her and none of the teachers I asked could help either. She had to go home. When the bell rang for break 20 minutes later, I sent the other learners out of the classroom. Patti washed her chair, turned her skirt around and carried books in front of the stain as she walked home. I didn’t see her until late the following week.

“You menstruate, right?” I asked Melita the following week. She was one of my best friends, a grade seven learner. Her sister, Coletta, was with us too.
“Yes.” It was a random out-of-the-blue question, and she had no idea where I was going with it.
“What do you use?” I asked her. I knew that her mother worked when she could, but her family often didn’t have enough to eat so buying sanitary pads would have been a financial stretch.
“Where do you get them?” I asked.
“From the hospital.”
“Pads?” I asked, knowing they sometimes had them there.
She nodded, yes.
“Are they free?”
Another nod.
“Every month?” I asked, wondering how the hospital could keep enough pads in stock for an entire village and the surrounding areas.
“I don’t know. My mother, she got them. But they’re finished now.””What will you do next month?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you come to school if you don’t have pads?”
“Sometimes. If you use toilet paper or a cloth. But many, they won’t come.”
“What if you had pads that were cloth, so they were made to be used for your menstruation, and you could wash them again and again so you never had to worry about where you would get pads from next month? Would this be a good thing?” I asked.
“Yes!” they both told me with conviction, Coletta just now joining the conversation. “It will be better,” Melita continued.

Reaching all girls who are in need of menstrual hygiene management products is a challenge we need to approach together.