(Her Excellency Arya Ali (middle left) and Minister of Education Priya Manickchand flanked by recipients of packages under the Menstrual Hygiene Initiative)
Students of the Bartica Secondary and Three Miles Secondary School have expressed their heartfelt gratitude after the Office of the First Lady launched its Menstrual Health Initiative in Region 7.
According to First Lady Arya Ali, some 1100 Female Students of the Bartica Secondary and Three Miles Secondary School are due to receive packages of sanitary products during the next few days.
Constituency Representative Shellan John-Drepaul, who spoke extensively with the BIG Smith News Watch on the sidelines of the event, highlighted the importance of this particular initiative where hinterland communities are concerned. “These areas (hinterland communities) are remote areas where stuff like sanitary pads would usually be limited and because we don’t have it, we were forced to stay home,” she reminisced.
Drepaul assured that this initiative will be of great assistance to students, and will offer financial ease for the parents of those students since they will no longer have to worry about such a necessary expense for a year. “It will help the parents…in the Amerindian villages. There are many girl children in one home and [this initiative] will ease the costs of each parent by giving it free without paying a dollar for it,” she explained.
Meanwhile, 13-year-old Mareeka Caesar expressed her belief that the donation of the sanitary pads to the female students in Bartica will aid in improving their learning capabilities since they will feel more comfortable in class environments. “I think it is good because it can help us to become comfortable so that we can properly address our school work and get our education,” she noted.
Caesar further noted that girls should not have the issue of wanting to stay away from school because of a natural biological process. “[We] as girls should not be allowed to leave schools because we do not have access to sanitary products,” she said.
(Mereeka Caesar (left) and her schoolmates)
Additionally, Three Miles Secondary school student Arianna Roberts said that the donation of the sanitary products will help the girls of Region 7 to be “prepared”.
Roberts went on to say that because girls tend to spend most of their time at school, their menstrual cycle usually begins when they are there. “Some times you get your period in school and you may not be prepared, and I think that it can really affect us being able to focus in school,” she detailed.
First Lady Arya Alli, said that the initiative started when she learnt that girls were even leaving school because they had no access to these necessary items. “Last year when I learnt that girls were dropping out of school because of issues surrounding menstrual hygiene, my heart broke. You are the future leaders of this country. At no point should you have to choose between having an education, and staying home because of not having access to menstrual sanitation.”
Mrs Ali pointed out that girls must be free to converse on the menstrual cycle, and that the stigma attached to ‘period-linked’ conversations must be broken. “Let us have conversations about our period where and when we want to… this is more about your empowerment as a young woman.” Arya went on to say, “These supplies will last you for one year, over the next few weeks we will be travelling to other Regions.”
(Reporting by Shaquawn Gill)