posted by: Justice Atiim on May 28, 2019

May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day!

What better time to recognize the work of the Community Action and Support for Education (CASE) Programme, which recently wrapped up its first year of operation in five communities of the West Mamprusi Municipality in the North East Region of Ghana. One of the major accomplishments of the last year, according to Project Officer Mustapha Ahmed Tijani, was the training of women and girls to make their own reusable sanitary pads.

During the community needs assessment prior to the start of the programme, many mothers expressed frustration with the monthly cost of buying disposable sanitary pads from the market for their daughters. For many young girls, if their families are unable to purchase those sanitary products, menstruation means missing multiple days of school every month in order to avoid embarrassment and humiliation. These missed days add up and ultimately put girls at a disadvantage to their male peers.

A study conducted in Southern and Central Ghana by the University of Oxford in 2008-2009 found that once girls are old enough to have experienced menarche (their first menstruation), it is followed by a “sequence of negative events for girls, with implications for [their] health, safety, learning, fertility, community involvement, and economic autonomy.” Having access to something as simple as reusable sanitary pads reduces the financial, emotional, and educational cost of menstruation for the girl child.

Through CASE, RAINS facilitated this training for women and girls to sew their own reusable sanitary pads. A trainer from Days for Girls Ghana was brought to two communities, Shelinvoya and Loagri Kukua, to provide training sessions to a group of both women and girls with the hope that they could then pass those skills on to their peers and neighbours. Tijani says for some of the women it has created an additional opportunity for social enterprise. “After the first training the participants were asked whether they had been using the reusable sanitary pads they had produced, most of them said they really had used it and that they found no challenges. Some said they were even sewing them to sell.”

This method of using cloth for sanitary napkins is not necessarily a new one. Before the arrival of disposable sanitary pads to local markets, women would use a cloth that could simply be washed and reused. However, Tijani says this training has updated and revived that traditional practice in a way that is more hygienic. The trainer provided information on what type of material works best for reusable sanitary pads in order to promote and ensure a hygienic period.

Menstruation is a reality of life for all women for many years of their lives, so it was important to create a solution that would be sustainable, hygienic, and socially inclusive while also breaking down barriers to education for girls. With this training, CASE is giving women and girls a low-cost and long-term solution to managing their monthly menses.