Puberty for Girls in the Developing World Can Mean Sacrificing Education

Many pubescent girls in the developing world face difficulties managing their monthly periods due to issues with hygiene and sanitation in these low-income countries. More than half the schools in the world's poorest countries lack private toilets, for example, and many girls cannot afford or even find tampons or pads.

Studies done across Africa and other parts of the developing world, though limited in scope and number, all seem to suggest that the problems faced by menstruating young women of school age are severe enough that many are missing school as a result.
The lack of toilets and expense of reliable menstrual hygiene products are impediments to pubescent girls trying to continue their education. Recent growth in awareness of these problems has prompted development of low-cost alternatives to these products. In Rwanda, a company called Sustainable Health Enterprises has made it a mission to train women to make pads out of fibers from banana tree trunks, and a company out of Uganda called AFRIpads has produced reusable, washable pads for 500,000 girls across the African continent.

Another alternative is found from the company BeGirl, which makes reusable underwear (seen held by girls in Ethiopia in the above photo) with a mesh pocket that can be filled with any safe, absorbent material, including grass, cotton, or scraps of fabric.

Increased advocacy for menstrual hygiene and improved sanitation is necessary and important for improving girls' access to education in these poor countries. "We're not talking about rocket ships; we're talking about sanitary pads," Diana Sierra of BeGirl said. "Yet they both have the same effect. They take you places."

Photo: Be Girl, Inc.