Menstruation Stigma Fueling Girl School Drop Outs in Dowa
A local organization operating in Dowa has found that there is stigma inflicted on school-going adolescent girls, especially when they are in menstruation, and that this is another factor fueling a sharp rise in school dropouts in the district.
Social-cultural and traditional reasons are playing a part in fueling the problem and some girls attest to this:
“Sometimes you only have one underwear and you washed it. There is no way you can go to school while menstruating. Naturally, you stay home,” said a girl at Mbalame School.
At Kongwe Mission School, this girl says “Girls here normally use clothe during menses. And we sit on the floor in class. Sometimes you find you leave wetness on the floor and everyone in class knows what you are going through.
“The boys laugh and culturally other girls think you are careless. That is why most girls opt to stay at home until the days are gone. But then you have missed classes and that reflects in class performance later”.
This girl we shall call Cecelia observes that “sanitary pads are expensive”. The menses are monthly “how can I afford. My parents are already burdened with caring for the family. We are six in our family. Daily food, clothes and school provisions”.
Some organizations are thus moving into the district to try and help break the silence on menstruation in general and menstrual hygiene practices, among girls in school.
At the weekend, the local organization called Passion for Women and Children-PAWOC, brought together parents, teachers and health workers for an orientation into how more girls would be helped to stay in school during menstruation.
During the orientation, programs Manager for the organization Passion for Women and Children- PAWOC, Makson Harawa, introduced participants to She-Matters, a project his organization is running.
“It is important for teachers, health workers and parents to join hands so that people do not view menstruation as a taboo and that girls should remain in school,” he said.
Head-teacher for Kawangi Primary School, Mphatso Nthondo, hailed PAWOC for the initiative observing that the issue was indeed a setback for most girls in school.
“We have been equipped with skills to help us encourage menstruating girls to remain in school. Including alternatives to problems that they face,” she said.
The orientation involved schools and hospitals from across the district. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GABRIEL KAMLOMO