By Brian Kanyenda
The Menstrual Health Movement (MHM) has expressed concern with the increased number of girls dropping out of school due to lack of sanitary pads.
The Lilongwe based organization has said that a recent study the organization conducted has revealed that about 30 percent of primary school girls absent themselves from classes due to menstrual hygiene associated problems.
According MHM co-founder Robert Kamangazula the organization is therefore, appealing to government and other stakeholders to venture into providing free sanitary pads to school going girls, so that they may have easy access to them.
He said that since several schools, according to school calendar are now opening, by simply supplying as many girls with sanitary pads they can remain in school and pursue their dreams.
Kamangazula said: “In shops, sanitary pads sell out at the minimum of K700 (seven hundred kwacha), depending on brand, with this imagine a girl in rural area who mostly lack basic needs, can she afford to buy? In the end many girls resort to using plant leaves, pieces of clothes during their menses which is inappropriate.
“Why can’t government start distributing sanitary pads for free as it does with condoms? A girl with lack of access to menstrual products faces emotional and psychological stress, therefore, providing sanitary pads to school going children would be a life changer for numerous reasons including hygiene and education,” he said.
Kamangazula further said that girls even face greater challenge when they get their monthly periods and skip five days of school due to lack of sanitary facilities such as, clean toilets and changing rooms in various schools in Malawi.
He faulted a perception and myths surrounding the issue, which regards that speaking of menstruation in public is a taboo, a thing which prevents girls from expressing.
On average a girl misses five school days in a month, this means 20 learning days in a term. This leads to them lagging behind in education and represents a possibility of dropping out of school.
MHM is an organization comprising of youths from various academic institutions in Lilongwe aimed at lobbying with several stakeholders to empower school going children through distribution of sanitary pads for free.