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Menstrual hygiene and missing school

08 May 2017

Late in 2016 we wrote about Rochelle Courtenay’s charity Share the Dignity, which she founded to address the feminine hygiene needs of women and young girls affected by homelessness, domestic violence, and lack of resources because of family budget/financial situations.

Care Australia is backing a new project in Vanuatu dealing with a similar issue in which young girls are missing school and education due to their menstrual cycles.

Florence, Tanna Island Vanuatu

Florence (above) is 17 years old, and she is determined to succeed in life. But for the last few years, her period has been holding her back.

“In school, when the boys know we have our periods, they laugh or check our skirts when we get up from our chairs,” she explains. “So when I got my period, I did not go to school. I was afraid of being humiliated, so I just stayed at home.”

In Florence’s rural community on the island of Tanna in southern Vanuatu, traditional beliefs run deep; menstruation is considered unclean and talking about periods is taboo. Not knowing when to expect a period is especially problematic when sanitary pads are expensive and hard to come by. Girls often make do with rags or even leaves, which are unhygienic and unreliable.

Because of these factors, many girls like Florence choose not to go to school when they have their period. In fact almost three quarters of girls in Tanna miss up to three days of school when they have their period. Those missed days add up and it’s easy to fall behind. Many girls drop out, and as women they are less educated, with less opportunity, and less say in their communities.

CARE Australia is changing this through school education programs for girls and boys, and the distribution of sanitary hygiene kits, which contain washable and reusable sanitary pads, underwear, soap, laundry detergent and a bucket.

The hygiene kits and the classes are making a world of difference for girls like Florence.

“I was trying to understand things myself and then CARE came and explained everything,” she says. “I feel like now I know everything; I feel like when I get my period, I am not worried. I am not afraid anymore.”

CARE is aiming to raise $44,000 to provide pads to 560 more girls just like Florence across 10 schools in Tanna so they can stay in school all year round.

Donate now to help girls like Florence stay in school.

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