In an effort to stop school drop-outs and absenteeism as a result of menstruation, Guyana’s First Lady Mrs. Arya Ali is on a mission to end period poverty.
The First Lady last weekend held a charity event dubbed ‘Chari-Tea’ at State House from which she raised $6M – all of which will be used to purchase sanitary products which will be distributed to school-aged girls in the hinterland.
The event which was attended by Ministers of Government, the diplomatic corps, and leading members of the private sector, was the first of a series of fundraisers which have been organized by the Office of the First Lady.
Mrs. Ali in her address to the gathering of mostly women on Sunday evening alluded to girls who are forced to skip school routinely, and in some instances drop out permanently, because they could not afford sanitary products.
“This is unacceptable. No girl should be placed in a situation in which she is forced to absent from or quit school because of her inability to afford sanitary products,” the First Lady pointed out.
She added that this has long lasting effects on other aspects of society. “Period poverty deprives girls of the very education which they so badly need to grasp economic and other opportunities. It can result in harmful psychological effects such as impaired cognitive skills and social isolation. Period poverty can ultimately consign girls to economic deprivation and make them vulnerable to abuse and other forms of exploitation,” the First Lady noted.
Under her Menstrual Hygiene Initiative, Mrs. Ali in January embarked on a mission to provide free sanitary pads to all females starting in public Schools in the hinterland regions. It is her hope that the project will expand in the coming years.
In a passionate plea for more persons to join the cause, she noted that no woman should be forced to make a choice between food and sanitary products or forced to risk their health by using less than sanitary items to manage their menstrual discharge.
“We can no longer pretend that this problem does not exist. Nor can we ignore it. It is within our means to fix it,” the First Lady stated.
She called on person to break the silence about menstruation which is a natural phenomenon and should not be taboo noting that the thought of little girls being denied an education because of period poverty is extremely distressing.
Also addressing the event was Education Minister Priya Manickchand who vouched to ensure the conversation starts in school and the taboo is removed from menstruation.
“The Ministry will continue to support efforts which are aimed at ending period poverty and ensuring our girls and women have equal access to educational and other opportunities” the Minister said.