Periods and girls’ education | ActionAid UK

Periods and girls’ education

Periods are a natural process and a part of nearly every girl’s life. But without access to toilets or sanitary products at school, many girls are missing out on their education — and putting their lives on hold, as they have little choice but to stay at home.

Poverty and stigma 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 to find out how we’re helping girls manage their periods safely, and get the education they deserve.

Building period safe spaces in schools

In Rwanda, many girls miss up to 50 days of school or work every year because of period poverty and stigma.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 helping girls like Jeanne to get the education they deserve.

  • 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 stay in school. 

Building safe, separate toilets at school 

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

Breaking taboos and ending shame

Chhaupadi is an ancient period shaming practice carried out in parts of western Nepal. Although it’s been illegal in Nepal since 2005, deeply-held views mean it continues.

Girls are banished from their homes during their periods and forced to live alone in isolated huts, because they are believed to bring bad luck. But ActionAid is working with local communities to end the practice of chhaupadi for good, so that girls can go to school and can manage their periods with dignity.

Read how we support community heroes to end the practice of Chhaupadi. 

 

Footnotes

Page updated 21 May 2019