Imagine for a moment that you are a girl attending school in South Sudan, and your monthly gift from Mother Nature has just arrived. You have a busy week of class ahead of you, exams are scheduled and the timing couldn’t be worse. You have no reliable way to manage your period so you’re forced to skip class, and any other plans you had for that matter, in order to avoid embarrassing leaks or stains.
Unfortunately, this scenario is reality for many teen girls in South Sudan. It’s no secret that schoolgirls in developing countries are faced with incredible challenges when dealing with their monthly menses. While most cannot afford to purchase sanitary napkins, many do not even have access to such materials. As a result, teen girls and women resort to using unhealthy and often dangerous materials to manage their monthly menses and many choose to simply stay hidden at home. Although it’s an issue that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, it is one of the contributing factors in absenteeism rates among school age girls at the Ayak Angeui Girls Primary School in South Sudan.
Our newest partner, Project Education Sudan, recently implemented “Freedom Pad,” a program that aims to keep girls in school everyday of the month by supplying them with reusable sanitary napkins and underwear. This new program provides the funding for sewing machines, training, and the materials needed to make cloth pads that can be washed and reused multiple times. Even better, as part of a skills based opportunity, the girls themselves will be trained on how to sew the pads.
Elizabeth Awai, Head Matron of PES’ Ayak Anguei Girls Primary School, is very excited to see this program begin, as it will provide many who are currently using makeshift goat skin pads with their first form of reliable sanitary protection. PES expects to see an improvement in absenteeism rates as girls will no longer have to choose between attending class or staying home during their period.