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The UNFPA is Reducing Missed School Days of Young Girls Due to Period Poverty in The Gambia

The UNFPA programme supports production and free distribution of reusable sanitary pads, including for girls at St. John's School for the Deaf in Banjul, The Gambia. (Photo: UNFPA, The Gambia)

In The Gambia, Africa’s smallest nation, period poverty is prevalent across the country, but it hits harder in rural areas, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Some girls skip school for around five days every month due to the lack of menstrual products and sanitary facilities.

The girls are afraid of staining their clothes and become a target of bullying or abuse, the agency said. As a result, gender inequality widens; boys will have an advantage as they attend school more often than girls, who have a higher chance of dropping out of education.

To tackle this problem, UNFPA developed a project in Basse, in the country’s Upper River Region, to produce recyclable sanitary pads. These pads are distributed at schools and hospitals in local communities.

The agency takes it as an opportunity to talk about bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health with young girls to mitigate period shaming and stigma.

Empowering Young Women

The project is also a way of empowering young women in the community as it provides them with a secure job and an opportunity to learn new skills.

Since 2014, Menstrual Hygiene Day has been observed on the 28th day of the fifth month of the year as menstrual cycles average 28 days in length and people menstruate an average of five days each month.

Poor menstrual health and hygiene undercuts fundamental rights – including the right to work and go to school – for women, girls and people who menstruate, according to UNFPA.

It also worsens social and economic inequalities, the agency said. In addition, insufficient resources to manage menstruation, as well as patterns of exclusion and shame, undermine human dignity. Gender inequality, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions can amplify deprivation and stigma.

With that in mind, the theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day this year is “Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030”, said UNFPA Executive-Director Natalia Kanem.

“A girl’s first period should be a happy fact of life, a sign of coming of age with dignity,” she said. “She should have access to everything necessary to understand and care for her body and attend school without stigma or shame.”

The Day brings together governments, non-profits, the private sector, and individuals to promote good menstrual health and hygiene for everyone in the world. The occasion also aims at breaking the silence, raise awareness around menstrual issues and engaging decision-makers to take actions for better menstrual health and hygiene.

Learn more about what UNFPA is doing to eliminate period poverty here.

Source: UN News


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