The WoMena team has been busy in Buikwe throughout March and April with parents meetings, data collection and a lot of trainings. In collaboration with the trained teachers, we have been training all schoolgirls across the four secondary schools part of the Buikwe District Fishing Communities Development Programme, supported by the Embassy of Iceland.
WoMena also conducted a baseline questionnaire with 171 participants, prior to product distribution in the 4 secondary schools involved in the programme. The baseline looked at the schoolgirls’ current situation when they have their period, which products they use and why, and how menstruation affects their everyday lives. Some interesting results have come out of the survey, for example how much the girls have to spend on pads per month, what the girls resort to when they cannot afford it, and how their periods affects their level of school participation and attendance.
84% of the respondents answered disposable pads as the product they most commonly use, and only 9% responded using reusable products. 31% of girls answered that they use old cloths or fabric for managing their periods. The girls who use disposable pads averagely spend 4000 Ugandan Shillings (1 USD) on pads per period.
When the girls, who said that they normally use disposable pads, were asked if they at one point in the last three months have not been able to afford pads, 47% of them answered yes. When the girls cannot afford to buy pads, some resort to using old pieces of cloth, some borrow money from friends or family, while others wear multiple pieces of underwear.
When combining the number of girls who say that they use old cloths, and who says that they use cloth when they cannot afford disposable pads, the number of girls who have used cloth within the last 3 months increases to 59% of the respondents. This indicates that disposable pads are the preferred product, but not necessary accessible to the girls, while using cloths is not preferred, but a method that girls often resort to. 37% of participants answered that they use something to catch their flow for less days than their period lasted, which may also be an indication of lack of access to disposable pads or other products.
With the introduction of reusable menstrual products as part of this project, WoMena hope that the schoolgirls and their families will be relieved from some of the economic pressures related to buying pads, and it will provide the girls with the option to use safe products throughout their period regardless of financing available.
The baseline also measured the impact of menstruation on the day-to-day lives of girls in the schools. 30% of the girls responded that they miss one or more days of school per month due to their period, and 32% of the girls leave school early for one day or more per month when they have their period. The most common reason for this was due to pain or having nothing to use to manage their period. Menstruation can also have an effect on girls’ confidence and participation when they are in class. 68% of the girls said that they feel less confident during their period and 62% responded that they were less likely to raise their hand in class during their period.
This baseline has identified some major concerns around access to menstrual health products and the impact of menstruation on school attendance and participation. WoMena works towards improving this through comprehensive training of schoolgirls, and provision of reusable pads and menstrual cups. The programme aims at increasing information, access and use of reusable products, and to raise awareness on menstrual health management.
WoMena is now preparing follow-up sessions in the schools to ensure that the girls have understood how to use their pads and cup correctly, and to answer any question they might have, before an end-line evaluation will be conducted later this year.
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Jenny is currently supporting the ICEIDA project in secondary schools of the Buikwe District in Uganda. She helps with the programming and implementation of the project, and provides support on tasks in the Uganda office. Prior to joining the WoMena team as an intern in February, she worked on family planning in the Western region of Uganda. Jenny has a background in Anthropology and Public health, specialising in reproductive health and rights through her studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.