What’s a sanitary pad got to do with education? Surprisingly, more than you would expect. They say educating a girl educates an entire family. And yet our schools are ill-equipped to deal with menstruation. So, how does a simple sanitary pad change the future of a nation? Let’s take a look.
Taboo Around Menstruation: To begin with you and I may think of the sanitary pad as a simple, basic necessity. To most of the country and the world even, it’s not. It is a luxury item. Added to that is the lack of awareness about puberty. In many cultures, menstruation comes attached to social stigmas and taboos. And more often than not, the girls are caught by surprise. Their elders don’t talk about menstruation and the like. So imagine what happens to these girls when they suddenly find themselves bleeding during their school day. Apart from wrapping their heads around it themselves, they are also faced with shame, embarrassment and bullying by their peers. Parents are not very helpful either. Some believe that this signifies maturity and the girl is ready to get married. In such a scenario, schools that provide the simple sanitary pad come across as a Godsend.
Role of the School:
Schools need to have separate bathrooms for girls and proper systems for pad disposal. As a safety measure, bathrooms need to have doors which are lockable. They also need to be located away from the boy’s bathrooms. Water supply and sanitation facilities are also required. Often schools don’t have the funds or the willingness to provide these basics. Studies across the world show a direct correlation between classroom absenteeism and menstruation.
Girls tend to avoid school due to the stress of staining their clothes and the pain of cramps. Even those who attend school are constantly worried about leakage and smell. They also want to avoid being teased by their peers. As mentioned earlier whilst some parents will encourage their daughters to marry others may withdraw them from school for fear of unwanted pregnancies due to consensual or non-consensual sex.
The role of a school is not limited just to providing free sanitary pads and sanitation. Schools should ideally teach children about puberty- especially if they don’t get this exposure at home. They need to equip adolescents to deal with the changes they are experiencing. Sex education can go a long way in preventing unsafe sexual practices. Unfortunately this is a tall ask for the basic educational institute at the grass-root level.
Role of the Pad: Just the existence of accessible sanitary pads on a school campus encourages girls not to avoid school. It may not seem like much for them to miss a few days every month but why should they have to do that at all? Having pads in the school shows the awareness and attitude of the school. Women need to be told that menstruation is normal and does not need to hamper ones daily life. An institution that reinforces this thought is a true instrument of education.
Educating women doesn’t just help them. It helps the country as well. Girls in school help increase productivity and employment. It also reduces pregnancy rates and ensures that children born are healthier. Overall, educating the girl child has a number of advantages.
We at Stay Sure believe that every child has the right to a fair education. In our own way we try and reach out to the community as well.