As the world recognises International Women’s Day on 8th March, UK-based charity Fields of Life is reminding people that thousands of girls are still missing school in parts of the world because of menstruation.
This is especially true for girls in Uganda, who frequently miss school – or drop out completely – because they are bullied, don’t have access to sanitary items and are brought up thinking it is something deeply embarrassing or even shameful. Many schools also lack adequate washroom facilities, adding to the stress and anxiety caused.
As part of the charity’s efforts to educate the public on the plight girls are still facing in East Africa, Fields of Life is gearing up to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its ground-breaking I AM GIRL campaign, which helps young girls in East Africa overcome extreme poverty, practice good menstrual hygiene and access a quality education.
Debbie Cameron, head of fundraising and development at Fields of Life GB, warns that despite the massive leaps in progress made, there is a long way to go.
She said: “Shockingly there are still some parts of the world where opportunities for girls and women are scarce, education is a luxury rather than a necessity and young girls believe that menstruation is shameful.
“For most women around the world, menstruation is nothing more than an inconvenience, but for the 1.2 billion girls and women globally who do not have access to basic sanitation and hygiene, it is a major cause of stress, anxiety and a threat to their basic human rights and needs.
“In East Africa, menstruation is largely considered unclean and taboo. Stigmatised because of a lack of education and hygiene management, girls often choose to – or are forced to – drop out of school due to a lack of sanitary items and the lack of washroom facilities at their schools. In Uganda, as many as 86% of girls miss school for these reasons.”
The I AM GIRL campaign has reached out to thousands of girls and women in Uganda, teaching valuable skills such as making liquid soap and reusable menstrual pads, helping them to practice good hygiene and stop them from missing valuable days at school.
Debbie continues: “All girls are entitled to dignity, an education and a future, and not only have the potential to be the agents of change in their families, communities and nations, but they have the power to change the world.
“The I AM GIRL initiative is committed to ensuring girls are empowered to complete their education and to grow into strong, healthy women and that, in time, their children will have the same opportunities. International Women’s Day is a wonderful chance to reflect on the progress that has been made so far, and how much further we have left to go.”
Since the inception of the organisation in Ireland in 1993, Fields of Life has raised approximately £30 million, which has allowed the team to build 124 schools, educate in excess of 50,000 children and drill in excess of 750 wells across East Africa.
Fields of Life is a registered charity in the UK, Uganda, Ireland and USA, with its GB office opening four years ago in Kent.