Toilet Paper for Sanitary Pad: Young Girls’ Confession
Pregnancy, poor health, poverty, absenteeism and drugs among others have over time formed the core of school drop outs in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Uganda, often ignored is the beginning of menstruation among school-going girls. Due to a lack of sensitization, many girls are caught in shock of new changes forming within them.
They are often left scared, hopeless and confused.
Ignorance about this change has not helped their cause as many have fallen victims of intimidation and bullying in school by their peers.
For the unlucky not sensitized about this sudden development, their dreams have been shuttered after opting out of school.
According to a 2010 UNESCO report, a continuous failure to complete a basic cycle of primary school has limited future opportunities for children which in turn has resulted into a significant drain on the limited resources that countries have for the provision of primary education.
In Uganda, fewer than 38% of girls entering Primary 1 (the equivalent of
kindergarten) in 2009 completed their primary education.
However, about 410km, north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital in a remote village of Ajan is a glimpse of hope in Piloya Caroline.
The 14 year old 5ft and dark primary six pupil of Awere Primary School was fortunate to have been told about developments every girl is supposed to go through by her mother.
“The first time of my period, I was not scared because I knew if you are a girl you must see your periods months after months after months,” Piloya said.
Despite possessing this knowledge, Piloya’s troubles were not over as her parents could not afford proper high quality sanitary pads.
“I did not even know what sanitary pads looked like,” Piloya recalls.
Piloya says, her mum bought toilet paper rolls and taught her how to use them whenever her periods came. She recalls how discomforting that experience was.
“During such times, it was hard to be at school because I could not play again like my friends. And also the toilet paper used to get wet and start falling down which was shaming,” She confesses.
Call it good timing, 2008, the time Piloya begun getting her periods was the time Awere Primary school starting a project of making handmade sanitary pads out of local cheap materials to keep girls at school.
Her discomfort was so evident that it gained the attention of Aduro Joyce, a senior woman teacher who is spearheading the handmade sanitary pads project.
“I have dealt with many of these young girls before and I can always tell from their faces and interaction with other students. They try to be anti-social, “Aduro Joyce said.
Piloya is one of many in her class who are encouraged to be open to their teachers so that they can easily access school made sanitary pads.
“I feel very comfortable when am using these pads we make here at school because, now I can play with my friends without fearing anything. My life is easy now,” Says Piloya.
While high quality pads which cost Ushs. 6000 (USD 2.1) are disposed off every time they are removed, those made by Awere can be reused for a period of up to six months.
For now, Piloya is in school and confident as ever to become a nurse, get married with two children and help take good care of her parents.