Acholi Girls' Fairer Future
Building Girls Through Reproductive Health Education
Imagine you were a girl sitting in class, and suddenly your friend tells you that there is blood on the back of your skirt.
This is how many girls come to know about their menstrual periods. In our 2019 survey, 16% of girls said nobody ever spoke to them about menstruation before they started their periods. Most girls who were spoken to learned from a teacher.
The goals of this ministry are to increase the rates of continuation of girls to secondary education and to help girls know the love God has for them.
Since 2014, our team has been working to get sanitary pads into the hands of as many girls as possible. Before schools were closed due to COVID-19 for almost two full years, over 22,000 had been reached. Distributions are also an opportunity to talk to the girls about how what is happening to them is not a mistake - they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and the Lord has a plan for each of them!
Looking Ahead and Shifting Gears
In the third term of 2019, we completed an evaluation exercise of the ministry to assess the impact this work has had on girls' attendance and on girls' attitudes and feelings towards menstruation and themselves. The evaluation was also an opportunity to explore other possible approaches that we have been thinking of in how to make the ministry more sustainable. Here were key lessons learned:
Girls who have been reached feel more confident and able to manage their menstruation than their peers who have not been reached, as displayed through higher participation in class discussion, sports teams, playground recreation, and self-reported feelings of preparedness and anxiety levels related to menstruation.
The most significant influencers are teachers in preparing girls for their menstruation in this region.
There has been a measurable improvement in lowering absences due to menstrual causes, but the difference was smaller than we hoped.
Pregnancy and child marriage (under 18), in the eyes of both the girls and the school administrators, are the strongest reasons why many girls do not continue to secondary school.
There seems to be many other reasons girls miss class that should not be ignored. For example, a staggering 26% of girls were absent on our first visit to the schools for this survey, many due to a mass vaccination exercise of which only the girls, and not the boys, were sent as helpers to bring younger children to the medical workers.
Girls may be more able to afford buying washable sanitary pads than previously thought
Some girls are open to trying menstrual cups.
These findings mean that in the next couple of years, we will be piloting different approaches to try to address factors we are currently not addressing (like pregnancy and child marriage), and hopefully improving our pads design into a marketable and affordable product that will be within the reach of many more girls to access themselves, instead of disposable pads that are used once and thrown away.