What is period poverty? (Menstruation and poverty)

By: By Pashtana Durrani

Girls on average start menstruating at the age of 12 if they are healthy. If they are malnourished it may take a few more years for them to develop physically to menstruate. Mostly girls by that age in Afghanistan are in class 3-4. Girls start dropping out in grade 5 to up until the 12th grades. Dropping out is due to many reasons, this article focuses on how the provision of sanitary pads can decrease dropouts in public girls school.
Menstruation and talking about periods is a taboo throughout Afghanistan. Girls menstruating feel ashamed even to talk about it. Inside schools, the school administration has no specific set of rules or part of the curriculum dedicated to “Menstruation” that can help and guide young girls. This leaves a vacuum. Because young girls cannot communicate about their bodies and they are not sure if menstruating is a normal thing or something out of the ordinary. This gap in communication exposes girls to take up the option of absentee when menstruating. Dropout if they Menstruate every 20 days. This also leads girls to withdraw from extracurricular activities, because if they use “cloth” instead of pad it can lead to leaking, and that leads to staining which drains the confidence of girls, especially in rural areas. Rural norms are different. Period poverty has made girls miss out one week per month that contributes to complete drop out in the majority of cases.
Why the provision of pads and dedicated course information is important?
Pads provided in school will be free of cost. And pads cost more than and daily item for girls in rural or urban areas of Afghanistan. Provision of pads means fewer absentees, provision of pads means fewer dropouts, provision of pads means more involvement in extracurricular and academic activities. Provision of pads means ending period poverty. Provision of pads means more girls inside schools involved in community building and rural development. Our curriculum lacks education on sanitation and Menstrual Hygiene management. Provision of pads will only work if we have a chapter of our curriculum dedicated to sanitation and Menstrual hygiene management for young students. Public schools in Afghanistan are not in a position to provide pads and end this period of poverty. But solutions, where the schools produce their own biodegradable pads or Ministry of Education focuses on the provision of pads that cost less, will lower the dropout rate. Afghan girls have to go through poverty, social and religious norms, go through harassment on their way to school. Pads are the least one can provide to ensure their presence in schools.
The author is an Activist, educator, innovator, and writer. She currently is Executive Director of @LEARNAfg.Global youth representative for Amnesty International and contributes to Kabul Times.

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