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Menstrual Hygiene Management and Girls School Absenteeism
The physical and psychological changes that occur during menstruation is a significant issue affecting school attendance among girls in primary and secondary schools. Most girls are little or ill informed about menstruation, so at the outset of the ladies thing, their nascent self confidence, esteem and hygiene are impacted negatively.
A study by the International Water and Sanitation Center (IRC), referenced by UNESCO revealed that some 66% of girls know nothing about menstruation until confronted with their first experience, which is apparently a traumatic one. In some climes, especially in Africa, South Asia and Middle East, there are religious and socio-cultural complexities that made people shy away from passing useful information to teenagers. Male puberty is prided as strength while female puberty, especially menstruation is associated with negativity, problem or sickness. This is unfair!
There should be adequate, age-appropriate and development-based education for girls on this issue. The education process could be at the home or inculcated in the curriculum to be taught at schools. It should however be handled by a skillful, well informed role model and the environment should be ideal.
Why Do Menstruating Girls Tend to Absent from School?
- Avoidance of standing up to answer teachers’ question. This is due to the concern about leaking or smell and discomfort which can lead to shame and embarrassment.
- Inadequate water and sanitation facilities
- Unavailability of menstrual hygiene materials like sanitary pad and tampon
- Menstrual cramp
- Loss of confidence and esteem
- Myths and beliefs existing in some culture such as, not associating with others; not taking bath; some even believe a girl is due to be married off at the onset of menstruation
It is important to provide girls with a school environment that promote hygiene, comfort and confidence. It is also helpful to prepare them with age-appropriate information (ages 8-12; 12-15; 15-18). We need to put an end to the culture of silence. Menstruation is not a shameful thing that must be hidden. Every healthy woman that’s not pregnant will experience it, from puberty to menopause.
During ovulation cycle (between 25-35 days long), the ovary of a sexually matured female releases an egg which moves to the uterus through the fallopian tube. The uterus (womb) then prepares for a possible pregnancy by developing uterine lining called endometrium. This endometrium, made of tissue and blood serves as a nourishing environment for baby in the womb. However, if pregnancy does not occur, the endometrium sheds and flows out as blood and tissues through the vagina. The monthly flow that takes place in the course of 3 to 7 days is known as menstruation, period, or menses. Nothing mysterious!
There is nothing abnormal about it. It only shows that you’re normal, and need to manage the experience, the changes, as well as your role in relation with peers and opposite sex. With adequate knowledge, skill and the right environment, girls need not stay away from school because of menstruation.
What to Teach Girls on Menstruation
- What is menstruation? It is important to teach them the simple biology of it as attempted earlier.
- What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
- Does menstruation hurt?
- How do you manage pain?
- How do you manage menstruation?
- Menstrual hygiene, menstrual hygiene materials, how to obtain them and how to dispose of the used materials
- Menstrual calendar
- Identifying the signs of imminent period
- Privacy and maintaining body integrity
- How puberty affects the dynamics of relationships, with friends, family, and the opposite sex.
If girls stay away from school due to menstruation, trying to catch up with missed lessons becomes an additional burden which most of them are not able to cope with. Thus widening the performance gap between their male classmates, depleting self confidence and lowering academic success. This burden is quite unnecessary! Education Ministries must ensure that the school system administer Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) education. Parents and teachers must skillfully assist our little girls to grow into wholesome womanhood. We’ve got to be there for them, caring, supporting, counselling, and lifting them all the way. Above all, girls should develop the skill in making fun out of growing up.
When every stakeholder play their roles responsibly, the cases of school absenteeism and dropout will be drastically reduced. We women folk would be able to maximize our potential fully and play our nation-building roles optimally.
- United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI);
- UNESCO: Puberty Education and Menstrual Hygiene Management
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