KAMPALA, Oct 22 (IPS) – More than half of Ugandan girls who enrol in grade one drop out before sitting for their primary school-leaving examinations.
The fact that girls are dropping out between age 11 and 13 is being linked to the beginning of the menstruation cycle and its associated challenges.
Research conducted by a non-government organisation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE), reveals that the lack of sanitary pads, coupled with other factors like the absence of water or separate toilet facilities for girls in many schools, is responsible for the drop-out rate.
Despite tax waivers introduced to reduce the cost of sanitary pads, finding money to buy them each month is a challenge for many grown women, never mind pre-teen girls.
A packet of sanitary pads costs the equivalent of $1.50 in Uganda – for the same amount you could get a kilo of sugar for the whole household. Girls whose parents can’t afford to give them the money improvise with strips of toilet paper or old cloth. “Sometimes you buy two packets depending on the flow,” says Florence Kanyike, national coordinator of FAWE in Uganda. “For some girls the flow is heavy and they will need to change pad in the course of the day.”