Having to menstruate monthly is already enough stress for girls! Aching tummy, loss of appetite, cramps, vomiting, body aches, waist pains, headache, mood swings etc. These are just a few of the numerous “wahala” that come with menstruation.
Girls have accepted menstruation as part of the ‘package’ that comes with being female. Yet we are still able to go about our daily activities as usual! But then again, why should an energetic young girl be forced to stay out of school during menstruation?
Kenyiti lives with her parents in a slum in the suburb of Accra. Her mother, Mama Mary as she is affectionately called struggles to provide a square meal a day for her family of seven. One beautiful morning Kenyiti gets out of bed to find a stain of blood in her panty. She wailed and cried and wondered what had gone wrong. She informed her mother about the stain. Excited Mama Mary proudly walked to her room and came back with three pieces of cloth. “Fold this and put it down there. You will be using these for the next five to seven days. You have to wash it every morning so it dries.”
“I did as she said and left for school. She didn’t explain to me the blood was going to flow heavier! I managed to sit in class throughout the morning as this piece of cloth kept rolling and moving and scratching me. It was just uncomfortable. I couldn’t pay attention in class. I was even afraid the piece of cloth may fall out. I walked so cautiously. The following day, I decided to stay at home."
This has become a ritual for Kenyiti as she is forced to stay out of school 5-7 days every month because the pieces of cloth she uses were worn out and uncomfortable.
One hot Wednesday afternoon, Kenyiti met a beautiful young lady in her neighbourhood. She interrogated why she was out of school. Initially, Kenyiti was reluctant to open up. But she insisted and finally she told the lady her story. Touched, the young lady took Kenyiti to a nearby provision shop where she bought her a box of sanitary towels and a dozen of panties.
“She showed me how to use it and assured me that these were more comfortable than the pieces of cloth and that I could go about my normal day activities. Immediately I got home, I removed the piece of cloth and replaced it with the sanitary towel. I felt betrayed and wondered why my mother didn’t offer me these instead. After exhausting the box of sanitary towels that the Good Samaritan had bought me, I understood why my mother gave me the pieces of cloth instead. They were cheaper and reusable."
A study conducted in 2014 by Sustainable Development Focus (SUDEF) revealed that about 95% of girls in rural areas in Ghana miss classes during menstruation largely because of lack of modern sanitary towels, sanitary facilities, water for personal hygiene and inadequate waste disposal options.
In some cases, most girls will prefer to stay home during their menses to avoid being ridiculed by others. I recall how my French teacher had to cane a group of boys in my class for making fun of a girl because they found sanitary pad in her bag. Can you imagine what would have happened to her if she had soiled herself? Well I don’t blame them. They didn’t know exactly what menstruation was. They heard it was some “dirty smelly old blood” that left a girl’s body monthly.
“I am a young girl. I am not asking you to nurse me or pamper me when I am in my menses. All I want is a descent toilet facility, flowing water and free sanitary towels to change. Even after I discovered sanitary towels, there were times I couldn’t change because the toilet facilities in my school will not permit me. I started carrying my cover cloth to school. About four friends had to accompany me to the ‘toilet’ to help me change.”
I don’t want to be restricted because I am in my menses. Staying out of school five-seven days every month is not an option. I want you to tell my parents that using outworn clothes during menses are not comfortable anymore. I want you to tell them that even modern sanitary towels have to be changed frequently.
This may sound exaggerated but these are real problems adolescent girls are facing in silence mostly in rural or deprived communities in Ghana or in Africa.
There are so many Kenyitis out there who are forced to stay out of school in Ghana. Will you help keep Kenyiti in school? Join our campaign “One friend one box" of sanitary pad. Sanitary pads received will be distributed to young girls in deprived communities across the country twice yearly. The first donation exercise is scheduled to take place in the third week of July 2018.
Visit our Facebook page Fanthonio.net for details about this campaign.