The schoolgirls going through this stage are usually between ages 12 to 18, which means they are at a prime age of making the most of the education provided by the government, which requires them to attend classes. Unfortunately for some girls in rural Tanzania, this is far from being their choice, as at times a girl would end up missing three to five days of school when menstruating.
Due to the lack of sanitary pads, which is mostly attributed to their affordability, it appears that most girls in rural areas tend to improvise and use a piece of cloth in place of a sanitary pad. This is unhygienic and doesn’t give them the comfort needed to leave their homes and go spend almost 8 hours at school.
This issue has grabbed the attention of various stakeholders in education and health sectors who channelled their resources into building washrooms in public schools, while others embarked on projects that would ensure availability of clean water in schools.
With most stakeholders mainly focused on ensuring availability of facilities in schools, the Vodacom Foundation in Tanzania in partnership with T-Marc approached the problem with a rather different solution in mind. This involves initiatives providing the schoolgirls with menstrual education and sanitary pads to those who can’t afford.
Many families in rural Tanzania are impoverished and can only generate enough money for food and shelter making sanitary products a luxury they can not afford.
This is why, in October last year, the Vodacom Foundation in collaboration with T-Marc embarked on a programme named ‘Girl Power’ with the main focus of increasing school attendance of young girls in Mtwara and Lindi regions. These regions have seen the most cases of truancy amongst girls due to menstrual related reasons.
These two organisations have been addressing the problem by providing sanitation, menstruation and reproductive education via SMSs that address taboos on reproductive health as well as providing tips on menstrual hygiene practices and distributing sanitary pads to school girls who can not afford them.
To implement the project in the Lindi and Mtwara regions, the Vodacom Foundation has injected 100m/- into the programme, which is expected to roll out in the two regions until September this year and in turn improve the education standard of over 10,000 girls.
As the world has just finished commemorating the World’s Menstrual and Hygiene Day on May, 28th, it safe to say that more girls in rural Tanzania have reasons to celebrate as statistics show that, halfway through the project, the programme has already reached 8,552 girls in the two Southern regions of Tanzania. Thirteen schools have enrolled into the programme and 114 teachers have been trained.
In the Lindi region alone, 1,352 new girls have enrolled into the programme that allows them to receive informative tips on menstrual hygiene.
Through the same project, the Vodacom Foundation with its implemention partner has so far distributed 4,896 packets of pads to 612 eligible girls in the two regions, giving them the choice to go to school even when in they are menstruating.
With such notable efforts from stakeholders such as the Vodacom Foundation and T-marc, girls in rural Tanzania now have the opportunity to gain education with fewer barriers making life better for girls in Tanzania.
In the same vein, "There is a need to remove VAT on all products related with Menstrual Hygiene in order that the products would be purchased on lower price," said a Dar es Salaam Primary School pupil, Halima Akida as she read stakeholders' recommendations during an event that was graced by the Ilala District Commissioner, Mr Raymond Mushi who was representing the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda.
Speaking during the occasion, Mushi said the government has already begun reviewing how it would bring together the ministries linked with the agenda to see how they can jointly come up with long term solution in relation to the existing challenges regarding the same.
The event was attended by officials from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Kasole Secrets Company.