Sanitary and Hygiene Issues in Young Girls

The primary school compound was filled with kids dressed up in a colorful uniform running up and about playing ball, skipping the rope while others stood and watched. They was so much noise and laughter in the air that I could not help but remember my childhood when I used to look forward to taking a break to just go and play! These kids were bear feet and some of them were wearing shirts that were revealing more of their nakedness than covering it.

The head teacher approached us immediately and started taking us around the school. It is always amazing going through these crowded classes wondering how I went through this kind of setting and even went to university and got a degree!! I am amazed and not sad like some of my colleagues, the donors from USA that I am taking around. I am just glad that these children are getting some education, however little it might be.

However, when we walk into the Primary Seven class and they are only boys about 13-15 years of age and my heart is sad. Immediately the first question that goes through my mind is, “how come they are no girls in the class”?

The Head Teacher who is female said, “It is because of sanitary and hygiene reasons”. What an answer!!! Why would girls drop out of school because of sanitary and hygiene reasons? Is it because the school/class is too dirty and filthy that the girls cannot stand being there? Were the boys smelly that the girls could not stand their smell? Those were the questions that popped up in my mind and I am sure that is what the people I was with thought the same thing.

We probed further and the answer we got was far from what we thought. The girls had dropped out of school because they had started their menstruation periods and that was the hygiene issue! Why? Because when young girls in that primary school like in many parts of the rural areas in Uganda, cannot afford sanitary towels something that is taken for granted in developed countries. Many young girls in these areas dread this time of the month because it completely changes their daily routine. Can you imagine not having anything to prevent the flow of blood from streaming down your legs? Definitely that will mean having limited movement for 3-5 days.

Some of young girls will get a rug, roll it up and use it but they have to wash it regularly in an area where you have to walk for about 20-30 minutes to fetch water for domestic use. It is very unhygienic wash the soiled cloth with very limited water, but that is the only means of pulling through that time of the month.

Well, some distaste the time so much that they get pregnant so that they do not have to experience their menstrual periods. What a reason to get pregnant!!

How many young girls in the developed world take the gear we used during that time of the month for granted? That time of the month is like any other day to so many young girls in other parts of the world and yet in countries like Uganda, where the majority of the population lives in the rural areas, it is time when routine changes.