Sanitary pads increase student attendance
At Saraswati Secondary School, Kuntadevi, Molung Rural Municipality Okhaldhunga the rate of absenteeism due to menstruation was 50 percent in past two years but now it is only 5 percent. With the availability of free sanitary pads in schools, the absenteeism rate has been decreased. The menstrual absenteeism rate was dropped to zero; Silanath Giri, the school principal of Molung Rural municipality 1, said that apart from being absent due to circumstances, it has played a big role in the attendance rate and educational reform. 'Sanitary pads were provided free of cost in this school for the first time by the ward chairman Pradip Bania.' Currently, the government has made sanitary pads compulsory in schools, although sanitary pads are available in schools, it has not been effective in most of the schools due to poor management, but Saraswati Secondary School has arranged separate rooms for using and changing sanitary pads. Women led organiztaion Gramin Mahila Jagran, Okhaldhunga (GMJS) has been working to empower the schools in the district for the same regard.
'In many schools, female students can't even ask for pads, Schoolgirls should form a group and make arrangements to ask for pads when needed with the help from female teachers', said Bimala Dhamala, Program Coordinator of PRAYAS project, GMJS. Although some schools have sanitary pads, female students are still absent during menstruation due to its inefficient management, said Dhamala. The main problem, she says, is 'the lack of a room to change the pads and a place to dispose'. When there is no sanitary pad in the school, the student has the experience of being teased while opening the bag. 'It's much easier now, We ourselves are becoming more understanding than before. ' Asmita Karki, chairperson of the student and adolescent group at Saraswati Higher Secondary School in Kuntadevi, said, 'Teachers, parents and friends are all taking it positively now.'
Although there is provision of sanitary pad, there is no other arrangement, admitted Shankar Prasad Koirala, Principal of Pragati Secondary School, Bhadaure, Bishankhugadi Rural municipality. He said that it was not possible to change and manage the pads in the toilets due to lack of water sanitation. Stakeholders say that not only the school in Bhadaure but more than 95 percent of the schools in the district have provided sanitary pads but have not paid proper attention for the management.
Source: Published in Kantipur news March 23rd 2021 (www.ekantipur.com)