In the remote region of Karamoja in north-eastern Uganda, an inspiring group of teenagers are working to break the silence around periods and debunk menstruation myths.
The children at St Mary’s School used to go to the toilet in the bush and girls often skipped lessons when on their period. WaterAid has helped improve school life by building latrines and teaching students about the value of good sanitation and hygiene, as well how to safely manage their periods and make reusable sanitary pads.
The students are now helping transform lives in their community by forming a WASH Club (water, sanitation and hygiene) and using drama, music and games to share the valuable lessons they have learned. As a result, they are helping keep girls in school, smashing taboos, and improving people’s health and wellbeing.
Esther, 16, a student at St Mary’s, said:
“Before, when we told our parents to buy us pads, they told us to just use our knickers. Disposable pads are expensive, and when girls didn’t know how to make pads they would have to miss school, maybe for three days. In our hygiene club, we have learned how to make sanitary pads, and also teach our friends about menstruation. Now things are changing!”
There are many myths around menstruation in Karamoja, such as the belief that stepping on groundnuts while on your period would stop them growing, and sitting on rocks would relieve period pain. Meanwhile, some believe that the onset of your period meant you should get married.
Fiona, 15, said:
“In villages, some say that if a girl starts menstruation she is ready to marry. It’s true that you can bear children but you are not ready to marry because you are still young. I first want to finish my studies, get my job, then marry.”
This summer, WaterAid’s global campaign, The Water Fight, aims to make clean water and toilets normal for every child and every school everywhere by 2030. For more information or to support the campaign visit www.wateraidcanada.com/TheWaterFight.