Study reveals girls lose 10-20% school days during menstruation

A study on the impact of the supply of sanitary pads on girls’ education has revealed that some girls may miss 10-20 percent of school days during their menstrual period. The study was conducted by the Gender Education Unit, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE).

The study was conducted against the background that historically, there has been a gender gap in education throughout the developing countries. Later years of basic education when drop-out rates are highest for girls’ often coincide with the ages of puberty.


Mr. Mustapha Drammeh who presented the findings of the study during the Coordinating Committee Meeting held in Janjangbureh, Central River Region observed that girls’ throughout the world face challenges during their monthly menstrual periods.


“It was therefore, suggested that providing girls’ with modern sanitary products may help them to be able to attend school during their periods, thereby increasing attendance rates of girls’ and reducing the gender gap,” he said.

Mr. Drammeh added that anticipated benefits during menstruation include increased girls’ attendance, more frequent participation in class discussions by girls, increased participation in physical activities by girls, enhanced personal grooming, improved self-confidence of girls, increased health of girls from using hygienic products.

Mr. Drammeh said the objectives of the study include determining how the supply of sanitary pads affects the attendance rate and self-esteem of girls’ in schools and to determine whether their participation in school has been positively or negatively affected by the supply of sanitary pads amongst others.

“The study also aims to determine how much of instructional hours have been gained due to the supply of sanitary pads.

“Schools within the regions were selected randomly and ten schools in each region that were supplied with sanitary pads were selected,” he said, noting that the study team spent  three-days in each region and almost four schools were visited a day.

“All the schools visited, girls–beneficiaries-, teachers, school administrators and parents’ were interviewed and in some cases, focused group discussions were conducted.

Interview questions were centred on the attendance rates and self-esteem of girls’ before and after the supply of sanitary pads and also girls’ participation in school before and after the supply of sanitary pads.

After all the regions have been visited and interviews conducted, the results were analysed and a report written to that effect,” he observed.

The study found out that the girls’ reported an improved ability to concentrate in school, higher confidence levels, and increased participation in a range of everyday activities, while “menstruating since the pads were supplied.”

“Some of the girls recounted experiences of how they have missed school during their periods. ‘Many of us miss school during that time of the month because we use pieces of cloth that often give us bruises and stains our uniforms and it is so uncomfortable and embarrassing,’ said one of the girls’ from a school in Wuli” Mr. Drammeh quotes the study findings.

“The study shows that ‘because pads are not always available, girls’ and women in many communities in The Gambia are forced to use cotton wool, cloths (including socks), tissue paper, and pieces of sponge to manage their menstrual flow.’ This has far-reaching health implications for the many women and adolescent girls’ concerned,” he said.

In Kiang Jattaba, a member of the Mothers’ Club said: "Here at Kiang, our mothers’ clubs have been helping girls in so many ways but we never thought of buying sanitary pads for them.  I think the girls have been very grateful and very happy because of the pads. This is because they know now, even when their periods appear, they are not going to be in fear. They have peace of mind, because they have the pads to protect them. So thank you for doing a very great job. With the provision of sanitary towels education for all girls is ensured."

As many teachers pointed out: "These improvements in girls’ self-esteem are particularly important. A positive self-image will not only provide girls with a more rewarding and effective experience of schooling, but will help them to participate fully in their families’ and communities’ activities. The sanitary pads have exactly done that."

Across the schools, in the pre-supply academic year’s official data, girls were marked present 68%, while boys were marked present 85.8 percent most of the time.

Whilst in the post supply era 89.7% of girls were marked present, whilst 84% boys were marked present. This shows a rise of 21.7% in the attendance of girls and a drop of 1.8% in the attendance of boys.

“Qualitatively, when asked what the good things were about the sanitary pads, girls reported that it was easy to use (29 percent), convenient for walking and cycling (21 percent), that they did not need to wash rags and it saves them time especially in the mornings (36 percent), and that it was convenient to manage menstrual blood (14 percent),”said Mr. Drammeh, adding that one important thing that was discovered was that Berending Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School did not receive any supply of pads.

“In some schools like Diabugu Upper and Senior Secondary School some of the girls were not going in for the pads because they were made to believe that it makes them infertile as they were not sensitised on the purpose and usefulness of the pads.

In Aja Fatou Bojang Senior Secondary School in the North Bank Region, they thought the supplies were from tourists or one good philanthropist” he said.

The study recommended that the supply of sanitary towels should be accompanied by sensitisation and education of the beneficiaries in order to prevent confusion as in the case of Berending Upper Basic School, Aja Fatou Bojang and Diabugu Senior Secondary Schools amongst other schools.

“Supplies and sensitisation would have to be done in such a way that it is culturally sensitive. For example, ladies can supply the pads. Girls should also be trained on the use and disposal of sanitary towels for personal hygiene and environmental sanitation.

“The supply of sanitary towels should be done yearly as its positive effect on attendance, time spent on laundry, participation in school activities and self-esteem is quite evident.

“The issuing of the pads should be handled by female staff (teachers/secretary) where they are available or mothers’ club members as some of the girls feel shy to make requests from male teachers,” Mr. Drammeh emphasized.

Reacting to the findings of the survey, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Hon. Fatou Lamin Faye, observed the cultural sensitivity of the menstruation calling for the sensitisation of the Mothers Clubs to enable them handle the pads in the most appropriate manner.

According to the Hon Minister, in most societies, men are not allowed to handle such issues. “The mothers Clubs have to be sensitised so that the men can stay away and allow the women to handle the distribution because they are culturally sensitive in many cases,” she advised.

Mrs. Claudiana Cole, Director, Regional Education Directorate 6, lamented that in some cases, the sanitary pads have not been properly handled.

“The packaging and handling of the pads need to be looked into. I went to a school and saw the sanitary pads scattered in the Head Teacher’s office. The pads must be safely kept and properly handled. The Gender Education Unit should be informed so that they can work on it,” she said.

Mr. Baboucarr Bouy, Permanent Secretary, MoBSE, agreed that the sanitary pads should be handled with care, calling for sensitization in their use. “It is a special case where you can distribute it to the school, but there must be sensitization in how they should be used,” he said.



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