Periods and girls' education | ActionAid UK

Periods and girls' education

Vast, aged 17, at her school in Malawi. Sanitary towels from ActionAid means she doesn't have to miss school when she has her period.

Periods are a natural process that are a part of nearly every girl’s life. But without access to toilets or sanitary products at school, girls’ lives are put on hold during their period, as they have little choice but to stay at home.

This has a huge impact on girls’ education. It’s estimated that one in 10 girls in Africa will miss school when they have their periods.1 Missing days at school can lead girls to drop out altogether, putting them at greater risk of child marriage, and getting pregnant at a younger age.

ActionAid works with communities to improve access to toilets, showers, sanitary products and education for girls about periods and sex, so girls can go to school and get the skills they need to break out of poverty and take control of their own lives. Read more below to find out how we’re changing girls’ lives for good.

Building period safe spaces in schools

In Rwanda, many girls miss up to 50 days of school or work every year because of their period.2 

ActionAid has built safe spaces for girls in nine schools in Rwanda. These safe spaces are rooms run by a matron in a separate building away from the school, equipped with a toilet, a shower, sanitary products, spare clothes, and a private space to change and rest. These safe spaces ensure that girls don’t have to fear the embarrassment of stains on their clothes, and boys in their class bullying them about it, which stops them from going to school.

Find out how are safe rooms are transforming the lives of girls like Jeanne.

  • 1. UNESCO: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002267/226792e.pdf
  • 2. http://rwanda.unfpa.org/sites/esaro/files/pub-pdf/news_round_up_issue%2017_April%201-12,%2022010.pdf

Menstrual hygiene education for girls in Rwanda

In some communities that we work with, taboos and secrecy surrounding periods means that often girls have never heard of menstruation before their first period, making it a confusing and traumatic experience. Without sex education, myths about periods continue. Girls tell us that they’ve been told they can’t do certain things in their daily life when they have their period, from using salt in their cooking to milking animals, or that they can’t get pregnant if they have sex while they have their period. 

Our girls’ clubs and period safe rooms give girls an environment where they can get information and ask questions about periods, sex and pregnancy, so that they are better informed about their bodies. 

Learn more about how our approach is helping girls like Denise. 

Building safe, separate toilets 

Without a safe, private toilet at school, girls can’t feel secure and comfortable going to the toilet. This is a problem throughout girls’ school lives, but it is especially problematic when they are on their period. 

A study in Ethiopia found that 50% of girls miss between one and four days of school per month due to menstruation.1 The impact of girls losing out on secondary education is huge: if all women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in half, saving 3 million lives.2

Read how our new toilets in Ethiopia will help girls stay in school.

  • 1. https://www.unilever.com/Images/we-can-t-wait—a-report-on-sanitation-and-hygiene-for-women-and-girls–november-2013_tcm244-425178_1_en.pdf
  • 2. UNESCO: http://en.unesco.org/gem-report/sites/gem-report/files/girls-factsheet-en.pdf

You may also be interested in…

Find out more about our work on periods and menstrual hygiene in our latest blogs.

Help a girl stay in school by giving a monthly gift.

ActionAid started working in Rwanda in 1996. Find out more about what we do in Rwanda.

Footnotes