Four Fast Facts about Menstruation and Girls’ Education
Overwhelming evidence provides that Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) plays a fundamental role in enabling young women and girls to reach their full potential in education. Although there is some progress in breaking barriers to MHM in girls’ education, systematic integrated MHM through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in schools is significantly lacking. The impact of MHM on girls’ education is profound and far reaching, with lasting social and economic implications - not just for girls but also for communities and governments. The four fast facts below highlight the links between menstruation, girls’ education and what can be done keep girls’ in school longer.
Here are the facts you need to know about menstruation and girls’ education…
FACT 1: For too many girls periods mean missing school days. In India adolescent girls are absent from school for an estimated average of 5 days per month when they are menstruating. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, more than a fifth of girls miss school because of their periods. In Afghanistan and Nepal, 3 out of 10 girls miss school for the same reason. It is estimated that a girl out of school due to her period loses an average of two and a half weeks of school annually, with some figures suggesting absence as high as 20 percent of the school year.
FACT 2: Widespread social stigma of menstruation creates barriers, not only to education, but also to understanding the scale of the problem. In some societies menstruation is perceived as being unclean or embarrassing, preventing girls and women from speaking about menstrual hygiene in public and in private spaces. This includes the school context where the environment may not be conducive to girls talking about their hygiene. As such, key data on attendance does not reflect the scope of the impact of MHM on girls’ absenteeism.
FACT 3: Failure to invest in menstrual hygiene management is costly – for girls and for governments. When girls menstrual hygiene management needs are unmet, they are at higher risk of school drop-out, which has wider reaching implications on economies. There is increasing evidence, which supports estimates on the cost to economies in failing to educate girls to the same standard as boys.
FACT 4: WASH programs are proven effective in keeping girls in school longer. WASH in Schools programs have the potential to ensure that girls’ experiences are more conducive to learning by addressing girl’s menstrual hygiene needs by providing:
- Safe, private, hygienic, and separate toilets;
- Soap, clean water and disposal facilities for used menstrual materials;
- Affordable/free menstrual materials;
- Menstrual Hygiene Management education and training as integrated within sexual and reproductive health education – with special focus on educating male teachers and students.
Girls shouldn’t have to miss out on an education simply because they are menstruating. There is no shame in being a girl, and with the right tools and support through integrated menstrual hygiene management and WASH in schools, both girls and communities can benefit.