“What sort of mother allows her daughters to keep away from school because they are too poor to afford padding materials that would adequately protect them from the shame and ridicule that comes by staining their uniforms with menstrual blood?” This was a tweet put up by Dr. Stella Nyanzi at the hight of the “Pads for Girls [Pad4girlsug]” campaign .
Whereas the legal framework in Uganda is alive to maternal and reproductive health rights, like Article 30 and 34 of the 1995 constitution of Uganda which provides for the right to education to all persons of Uganda and imposes the responsibility of providing children with basic education on the state and the parents, Uganda in its aspiration to provide maternal and reproductive health services for girls and women and specifically on Menstrual Hygiene, still faces social, economic and cultural challenges leaving a lot to be desired.
Menstrual Hygiene(MH) is a key and a fundamental concern that specifically touches on the existence, productivity, performance and the well being of girls in school. Societal stigma, insufficient knowledge and measures provided to young girls in and those close to puberty stage, lack of essential support and amenities for managing menstrual hygiene, absence of private space and hygienic washrooms, inappropriate facilities for disposal of used menstrual materials, lack of or inadequate water and the physical pain like headache that characterizes menstrual cycle, have generally stood as impediments to women and girls in the bid to reach and achieve their full potential.
Aware that women and girls in low-income settings in Uganda (who happen to be the majority), have low awareness on hygienic practices and lack culturally appropriate materials for menstrual hygiene (MH) practices, there is great need to include subjects and course units on reproductive health rights starting from primary schools, lobby for a legislation that directly places the responsibility on Government of providing free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to school girls who have reached the ages of puberty and encourage reusable pads . These will go a long way to counter the social taboos, the shame and the silence that is often associated with “Menstruation” that restrict mobility, freedom and access to normal activities.