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Periods still impacting girls’ education in Africa with one in ten missing school

As the world recognises Menstrual Hygiene Day today, UK-based international development charity Fields of Life is reminding people that many girls around the world are shockingly missing school simply because of menstruation.

For the majority of women around the world, menstruation is nothing more than an inconvenience, but for the 1.2 billion girls and women who do not have access to basic sanitation and hygiene, it is a major cause of stress, anxiety and a threat to their needs and basic human rights.

In parts of East Africa, menstruation is largely considered unclean, taboo and can even be regarded as a disease. Stigmatised because of a lack of education and hygiene management, girls often choose to or are forced to drop out of school due to the stress and anxiety caused over the fear of being bullied, especially since they lack sanitary items and the inadequate washroom facilities at their schools.

This is especially true for girls in Uganda, where 86% of girls frequently miss school – or drop out completely – because they are brought up thinking it is something deeply embarrassing or even shameful.

Debbie Cameron, head of development and fundraising at Fields of Life GB, says that despite the massive leaps in progress made, there is still a long way to go.

She said:

“No one should be made to feel ashamed or have to stop going to school and taking part in everyday activities because of menstruation.

“Sanitary products are not available for many girls and women; some rely on homemade alternatives that are not always hygienic or absorbent which is not ok.

“It is shocking that there are still some parts of the world where opportunities for girls and women are scarce, education is a luxury rather than a necessity and young girls are brought up believing that menstruation is shameful.”

Fields of Life’s I AM GIRL campaign aims to transform the stigma surrounding menstruation by teaching adolescent girls, and boys, that it is not shameful or unclean. Teaching thousands of girls how to make their own liquid soap and reusable menstrual pads, helping them to practice good hygiene and stop them from missing school.

An official Great Britain ambassador of I AM GIRL is Tracy Edwards MBE, the captain of the first all-female crew to sail around the world on the infamous boat Maiden to a second-place finish in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Tracy said:

“I AM GIRL implements simple workable solutions that get girls into school and help to keep them there. With 130 million girls worldwide currently being denied an education, the initiative really spoke to me when I first heard about it and I knew that I had to help and become involved in some capacity – I wanted these young girls to feel empowered and to know that they can achieve great things.

“I am so proud to be an ambassador for Fields of life and encourage others who are looking for genuine, solution-based projects with measurable outcomes for girls to definitely have a look at the organisation. The simplicity of the Fields of Life’s message and the team’s ‘on the ground’ approach, their engagement with the communities with whom they work and their understanding of the problems faced by the communities is truly inspirational.”

Since the inception of Fields of Life in Ireland in 1993, the charity has raised approximately £30 million, which has allowed the team to build 124 schools, educate in excess of 50,000 children and drill in excess of 750 wells across East Africa.

Fields of Life is a registered charity in the UK, Uganda, Ireland and USA, with its GB office opening four years ago in Kent.

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