This blog is part of a collaboration between the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE) and the Global Partnership for Education.
For too many girls in Zimbabwe, education has been compromised by challenges posed by lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene, care and management. If menstrual hygiene and care is not properly handled, more girls will continue to lose out on education.
Cultural and religious taboos and limiting social norms makes it challenging to teach and talk about menstrual health. A report by Plan International states that males do not view sanitary products as essential items.
Further, cultural taboos that were associated with a women menstruating have increased. A case in point is girls being denied the opportunity to cook while menstruating as it is wrong culturally. Menstrual health challenges have become a major contributor to poor learning performance and poor grades and even to girls dropping out of school.
Period challenges make girls miss out on schooling
These challenges faced by female learners not only negatively impact their participation and performance in school, but also take away their dignity, self-confidence and self-esteem.
Absence of proper sanitary products may result in girls missing school during their menstrual period. The major reason is that they fear leakage and messing up, which in turn attracts teasing from other learners. Menstruating girls are continuously teased by other learners including male students and some male educators as well. In order to avoid this, girls may opt to miss school during their period.
Menstrual hygiene requires clean and proper toilet facilities and appropriate methods of disposing of used sanitary pads, and availability of water and soap within the facility. Unfortunately, these facilities are hard to come by in Zimbabwean public schools. The lockdown brought about by Covid-19 has also escalated the situation.
Running water is a major challenge. Absence of proper water and sanitation facilities affects girls’ confidence to freely participate in class or any other school activities during their periods.
Many girls feel pain during the first 3 days of their period. They may feel distracted, nauseated and may not be able to concentrate. Some girls may sleep in class and some will excuse themselves to visit the bathroom more frequently, losing precious learning time in the process. Educators are not able to assist girls out of these problems.