Inadequate support for menstrual hygiene in Uganda impacts girls’ human rights to sanitation, education, health and employment and prevents them from realizing their full potential.
Sanitation: Lack of an affordable sanitary product forces girls to use unhygienic and inadequate alternatives like dirty rags and corn husks. Irise data shows 68% of girls are using rags some or all of the time. Girls are afraid of staining their skirts and being teased by other pupils who perceive menstruation as dirty and taboo.
Education: 50% of girls report missing school due to their period because of a combination of inadequate sanitary materials, misinformation, and taboo. The shame and stigma associated with menstruation also affects girls education indirectly through causing low self-esteem and confidence levels.
Health: Although the data is scarce, poor menstrual hygiene may also directly cause infection and research is needed urgently to understand the risks associated with different hygiene practices. Systemic misinformation about women’s health ranges from doctors teaching that sex is the only cure for period pain, to the belief that menstruating women are dirty and can contaminate others. Their data show that 50% of girls believe period pain is a sign of illness. Menarche is an important window in a girl’s life and can be conceptualized as a social determinant of reproductive health with the attitudes and information internalized by girls about their own bodies during this formative period affecting their longterm health seeking behaviors, including access to family planning and seeking medical care during pregnancy.
Employment: The issue persists into adulthood, with research suggesting female teachers also miss work because of inadequate support during menstruation.