Here at Eco-pads we push ourselves to constantly adapt to our environment and the new challenges that may present themselves. While our past work providing a comprehensive reproductive health education has been successful, we have recognized that there are still certain challenges the girls face. Through surveys, focus groups, and training we have learned of several other health issues girls faced at school.
One frequently reported issue was the lack of sanitary facilities just for girls. At most schools in the area, girls share pit latrines with boys. As one teacher told us,
“Some schools do not have pit latrines for girls alone, they have to share with the boys and teachers too, now these girls find it very hard even when you provide them with the Eco-pads to go and change, they have to go back home…” she calls to her “fellow teachers to let us join hands and advocate for changing rooms for the girls alone privacy.” – Nabiswa primary school, Kibuku district.
Eco-pads is currently working with and talking to schools, advocating for the establishment of separate, or more private facilities, that females can utilize throughout the day. We recognize the need to address female needs holistically and are ready to rise to the challenge.
An additional difficulty we face is the traditional cultural belief that menstruation is a sign of maturity, indicating time to start looking for marriage prospects. While we recognize that menstruation represents physical maturity, we at Eco-pads believe strongly that menstruation does not make a girl mentally or emotionally ready for marriage. For this reason, we are working with girls, families, and communities to reverse the practice of youth marriage, and to encourage the education of girls. We believe that families will certainly realize the great power of education in transforming a girl’s future!
An important part of Eco-pads vision is changing the cultural taboos around menstruation. Here in Uganda, there is often a ‘culture of silence’ surrounding menstruation. Few parents speak to their children about sexual health, and schoolteachers are unable to find the time. For this reason Eco-pads is dedicated to challenging the negative stigma around menstruation and helping girls understand the changes in their bodies. We are working with schools and leaders to create an open dialogue about female health. In particular, enlightening male educators on the appropriate ways to provide resources and support to female students. By broadening their support networks, we hope to give these girls even more leaders in the community to reach out to. It is time to show these girls that they are not alone!