General News of Thursday, 18 October 2018
Menstrual health conversations are usually not a topic of prime discussion in most part of Ghana. The implicit stigma and overall culture of silence around menstruation have made many young girls victims to misconceptions, limited information and unhealthy practices. For many girls in deprived communities, their menstrual cycle forces them to miss classes frequently and eventually leads to them dropping out of school altogether.
In order to tackle this pervasive problem, United Way Ghana launched ‘Girls Closet’ on International Day of the Girl Child on Thursday, October 11, 2018. Each year on October 11, the world marks International Day of the Girl, declared by the UN in 2011, for all non-profits to highlight, discuss and take concrete action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere to reach their full potential.
Speaking at the launch in Akropong, which was attended by students, parents and community leaders, Janet Butler, acting director of United Way Ghana explained that the goal is to create an enabling environment for all girls to thrive in schools.
“Girls Closet is an initiative geared towards helping girls reach their full potential through menstrual health education, mentoring and scholarships. Girls Closet will see to it that female adolescents are able to go to school without distractions, especially during their menstrual periods.”
For many of the girls in Akropong, this project will redefine their lives positively. Hannah is sixteen and a student of Akropong M/A Primary. She shared her thoughts on the relevance of this initiative for many girls her age who struggle with managing their periods regularly.
“I skip school when it is that ‘time of the month’ because the rags I use to soak the blood makes me uncomfortable,” Hannah narrated. “If I am not careful, I end up soiling myself so I avoid school for as long as the flow lasts.”
Menstrual health issues are prevalent in many Ghanaian and African communities at large. Many girls in Hannah’s situation drop out of school entirely. A 2016 study by Human Rights Watch estimated that 1 in 10 girls in Africa missed class because of their periods. Many lack access to sanitary products and hence suffer several vaginal and urinary infections. These related effects make it difficult for them to concentrate in school leading to poor academic performance and increase in female drop-out rate.
In collaboration with Sankofa Care Initiative, United Way Ghana distributed ‘dignity packs’ – reusable and easy-to-use sanitary kit – to young girls in Akropong. They were taken through how to use the ‘dignity packs’ appropriately and hygienically, as well as how to defend themselves from rape or defilement.
With regards to scholarships, the Nyansapo Scholarship Programme currently has over 400 beneficiaries from seven basic schools in Akropong, who have received financial support and educational materials from United Way Ghana.
Girls Closet forms part of United Way Ghana’s overarching Improving Basic Education (IBE) programme, designed to implement sustainable solutions to the educational problems children face at the basic level. With Girls Closet, United Way Ghana is educating girls and their communities on optimum menstrual health to build a supportive environment and create positive social change.
Since its establishment in Ghana in 2003, United Way Ghana has been leading the charge to ignite social change, build resilient communities and improve lives in the areas of education, health and financial stability.