This campaign is about saving girls stigma, build their self esteem and close the gap of dropouts from schools.Owokusima Kamugumya still remembers that embarrassing moment, when she first experienced her menstruation. This 14-year-old girl was in Standard Seven and did not know what to do after that, because her mother or other relatives had not disclosed to her about what she would do, when faced with such a situation, and as a result, she failed to attend classes for four consecutive days.
What happened to Owokusima happens to tens of thousands of schoolgirls in both rural and urban areas. The embarrassment they get is worse as bullying by their fellow pupils, particularly boys, becomes the order of the day, something that haunts the girls.
Some schoolgirls, especially in poor rural areas, miss their studies every time during their menstruation period. Girls from poor families cannot afford sanitary pads, and lack of decent changing washrooms contributes to their poor class attendance during their monthly periods.
“What happened to me was a big lesson, which if I had prior knowledge, I could have avoided embarrassment in front of my classmates,” said Owokusima, adding: “When in menstruation, I have to make sure that no one notices me.”
“I would love to have sanitary pad in my school bag everyday so that whenever I feel like my period is about to start, I just go and put it on. However, it is very difficult to have the sanitary pads as I wish. I cannot afford it Owokusima,” said , who has graduated from Rwemondo Secondary School in Ishunju, Missenyi District, Kagera Region.
For Dorothea from Minziro, it is not safe at all for a girl to get her period while in school. “If that happens,it is really embarrassing as boys always shout and point fingers at a girls and formulate some names and phrases that shun her and found that she is at that compound mistakenly,” she explained.
Most girls, said it is very difficult to get sanitary towels at school, surrounding areas and even at home. “That doesn’t mean that they are not available at all. They are not enough compared to the needs of the girls. The demand is higher than supply,” she explained.“Most of us use pieces of clothes during menstrual period because our poor families can’t afford to buy sanitary towels. One must spend TSh2,000 for one bundle with 8 to 10 pieces of sanitary pads,” Most of poor families in Tanzania cannot afford. Dorothea said despite knowing that the use of piece of clothes during period is unhygienic, she has sometimes no option, as she needs to cover herself and stay clean.
However, this project is looking forward for sustainability to collaborate with partners in Rwanda to learn on how to make cheap pads by using banana fibers. Our region is full of bananas of which can be used to sustain our project and avail skills to girls too.