Emmanuel International runs a Menstrual Hygiene (Pads Ministry) project in Pader and Agago Districts of Northern of Uganda. It is difficult for children to complete their Primary education and there are many factors that contribute to a high drop out rate. One of the significant factors for girls is an inability to manage their periods while attending school. This means being absent for 4 or 5 days a month.
The Pads Ministry Team is formed by Tom Edom, a missionary from the UK, and Milly Akello, a Pader resident. One could think it a rather odd project for a man to be involved in but Tom plays a vital role in substantiating the girls's value in a culture where they are often seen as of less worth than boys and menstruation is seen as a female problem (to be ignored by men) rather than a human one. As Tom likes to point out, we were all conceived following our mother’s menstruation.
Milly and Tom visit Primary Schools to teach about menstruation; encouraging and instructing the girls. Psalm 139:13-16 forms the basis of the talk, about how they are each wonderfully and uniquely made by God and are important to Him. Each girl is provided with four washable pads, made by a local tailor and four pairs of knickers.
In every school they invite all the girls of 12 years and over to join our sessions and they can number from 40 to 230 depending on the size of the school.
In a typical group of 60 girls, 40 will have started their periods but only around 9 are wearing underpants and one or two will use disposable pads. Here in the UK it would be shocking if disposable pads or tampons and underpants were not provided for girls by their family. In rural Northern Uganda, most people are on a very low income and exist mainly outside the cash economy. A girl can not just ask her father for money for pads, and children simply do not have money of their own.
Because the girls miss a week of school every month, unless they are unusually bright and determined, they fall behind and are seen as dim by their teachers and parents. When it comes to which children should get their school fees paid, the parents tend to choose a son before a daughter for cultural reasons. If the daughter’s school report is poor, then the decision is even easier to make. Since the girl is known to be experiencing her periods, many parents will see her as a marriageable asset. By providing her with pads, we give her a little more control over her destiny.
To date (Mid August 2016) Emmanuel International have 48 client schools, most of which we have re-visited to catch the new 12 year olds. From the beginning of 2014, we have provided for 7,403 girls at a cost of about £2.25 per girl.
About the project...
About our fundraising for this project...
This girl has just demonstrated to her classmates how to assemble a pad into knickers. The tee shirt makes it both amusing and rather poignant: So much ambition; so uncertain a future. At least we are addressing one of her key vulnerabilities with our pads ministry.