Report on a Field Trip
“Improvement of school environment to combat Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) challenges to Stop Adolescent Girls’ School Dropouts in Uganda
Maiko Ohnishi from Global Bridge Network (GBN) had a visit to Mubende, Uganda on August 2017, to monitor the project which has been conducted by SORAK development agency, GBN’s partner, and local NGO in Uganda.
I visited 3 targeted schools with the SORAK monitoring team and we were able to interact with a total of 12 involving 10 school children and 2 teachers who participated in training on making re-usable sanitary pad.
I. St. Josephs’ Kibalinga Primary School.
♦ One school girl
Angella 12 Years P6 Class
The first girl to share her perceptions about the project regarding achievements, challenges and way forward was Angela. She shared her experience and views about the project and menstrual hygiene management as follows;
“My parents and aunts had told me that when I reach like 12years I will go through menstrual periods and that I would need to protect my hygiene. I happen to have started experiencing periods at the time of training.”
Angela continued to elaborate more with some requests;
“During training I learnt how to use sanitary pads and hygiene management. Therefore, I found it simple to handle during my first menstrual periods, and I use sanitary pads that I made myself”! …and sometimes I buy disposable pads that I buy in shops. But the ones I make are suitable than ones I buy in shops. I don’t get any problem and I can make many reusable pads, but I lack materials to use. Urgently we request you to provide us with sanitary pads making materials such that we can make enough pads. In addition, we request to construct for us a changing room because “we don’t have one”. We normally use latrine rooms when to pad ourselves.”
She further emphasized her ability to train other fellow pupils in reusable sanitary pad making and hygiene management.
“I can team up with other pupils I trained with plus boys and train others such that we can make more and enough pads for our school and community” stressed Angela
“I wish we always include like a few boys because sometimes boys do not mind much since they don’t go through menstrual periods. This will enable us to train many girls.”
Angela nevertheless recommended the inclusion of boys in the trainings about menstrual hygiene management and reusable sanitary pad making as illustrated here:
“Yes it’s good to include boys because even boys in future shall have girl children in absence of mothers they have to help them out during menstrual periods”.
Lastly, she said
“Regarding all boys at our school, they are informed and they don’t laugh at us because they know its natural and health to go through menstrual periods”
♦Two school boys
Julius, 11 Years in primary 5
“We learnt how to make pads and when and how to use them… It was good experience for us to participate in the re-usable sanitary pad making and hygiene management; because our sisters go through menstruation periods and we can help them out where necessary.”
Kibuuka John 12years p6
“After training I got knowledge I inform my fellow boys that its natural and healthy for girls to undergo menstrual periods and that we should always help them when they need assistance during the period rather than laughing at them”
◎ It was a very impressive moment when we asked one of the boys what would they do after making the sanitary pads during their training, a boy answered with shyly smile, ‘I gave it to my girlfriend’ 😊
These adolescents met at this school requested the monitoring team to provide them with reusable sanitary pad making materials so that they would be able to make more to meet the growing girls’ menstrual hygiene managements` needs.
II. Lwawuna Primary School
The monitoring team had the opportunity to interact with the deputy head teacher as well as the senior woman teacher. These were both direct beneficiaries of the project activities.
♦ The deputy head teacher
“The project was very important and useful… our parent who benefited from the training made some re-usable sanitary pads,...If it were not the lack of materials we would have made more,…we also need to involve all pupils in order to make more reusable sanitary pads, and we can also make them for sale.”
He informed the team that the school had changed strategy after this project’s intervention. Since the disposable sanitary pads being used are used once and they are very expensive, the school has now started making re-usable sanitary pad making.
“We therefore asked each parent with an adolescent girl undergoing through menstrual periods to contribute 1,000= per term towards procuring materials for reusable sanitary pad making”.
He also observed
“Sex education and hygiene management training had helped adolescents to be open and speak out openly on issues of sex and reproductive health. I hoped you could provide many more trainings at least 3 trainings per year.”
♦ The senior women teacher
She started by mentioning about boys’ behavior
“I can assure you that after the trainings got from this project,…Boys’ behaviors towards Menstrual hygiene has changed,…boys can now assist and inform me when they found girl’s emergency menstruation as opposed to the situation before this project, when boys could laugh at girls experience menstrual periods.”
Regarding some of the challenges she mentioned
“With knowledge we acquired from your trainings, we can now sustainably make re-usable sanitary pads but we have limited funds to support our project in terms of procuring more materials”
She had also revealed
“Even used to find it difficult in teaching the topic of the reproductive system, as it is sacred in African culture to talk about private/sex organs openly,…teachers were therefore uncomfortable to teach the topic, but after the sex education provided from SORAK children no longer laugh or find it abominable to mention issues of sex and sex organs in class,…”
◎After the training, the school displayed messages such as ‘STAY IN SCHOOL’ and ‘ATTEND LESSON DAILY’ etc on the three for the purpose of raising students’ awareness as illustrated in the picture below.
It was great to see that this school voluntarily made a new idea of requesting for a small contribution from parents to make sanitary pads, and we also observed that school boys’ behavior towards girls support changed, and students and teachers openly discuss about the issue of sex reproductive health and menstruation. This school also emphasized that they have challenges of lack of funds and materials for sanitary pad makings.
III. Lwawuna Primary School
The monitoring team also had an opportunity to discuss with school children (beneficiaries of the project). These included 4 girls and 3 boys. Voices from the met students were recorded as below;
♦ Four school girls
Muhoza Diana P7
“it’s good to include boys in re-usable sanitary pad making and hygiene management, because they learn about menstrual hygiene and health management and why girls go through menstrual hygiene, now they no longer laugh at us when we go through our periods while at school”
Nakazibwe Sofia P7
“I benefited much because I used to be shy to go to the senior woman teacher but now I can freely report any healthy issue”
Nasazi Shamim p7
“Boys used to laugh at us but now we are free with them even when we get into menstrual periods while at school!”
Namuddu Christine p7.
“we have a serious request, the school gave us one changing room for girls but it’s not enough and suitable for us. ie its narrow and dirty. We are requesting for one that is suitable to be constructed for us. We are also requesting to provide us with materials for making the sanitary pads.”
One of the girl showed us the re-usable sanitary pad which she made in the training,
”I made two in the training. I use one during school hours and when I get home, I change to the other one, wash the used one and dry it so that I can use it the next day. I was no longer getting absent from school due to the menstruation”
◎Girls revealed that “Boys used to laugh at us, but now they are so supportive!” and boys were ashamed when girls revealed it 😊
♦Three school boys
Some of the boys met also had interesting stories to tell;
“After re-usable sanitary pad training I made one pad and I was happy to produce something out of my hands! I gave it to my twin sister to use. They were nice moments for me!”
Wasswa Andrew, p7
“.Before the training project we used to laugh at girls during their menstruation periods but after training we knew that it’s natural and healthy. And we no longer laugh at them”
Qwizera Danniel, p7
“After training we started having boys to boys’ talks and I told them that menstrual period is normal and it’s in nature, we told them that laughing at girls during menstruation is not right”
“For us boys from Lwawuna p/s we support and train other pupils to maintain hygiene around the school and the community”
Through the interview, I realized that the education and knowledge made a great impact. It is proved that once boys know and understand about girl’s menstruation, their behavior positively changed and became supportive. It was good to hear that the school also provided a changing room for girls even though there are still challenges. All stakeholders including students, teachers, and parents had a change to consider this issue as girls’ menstruation and importance of girls’ educational environment. With this, it is great to see some improvements by this project.
We promised that this team will do its best to sustain
this project and transfer to other pupils as well.
- Plan to provide start up reusable making materials for the next project.
- Plan for making more trainings to many more adolescents
- Pupils who were trained should be enabled to train others before leaving primary school for the next term of study.
- Make and provide reusable sanitary pads to many other schools who haven’t yet considered project.
*This project is supported by Lush Japan Co., Ltd.
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