The Menstrual Hygiene initiative which aims at changing how menstrual cycle is viewed and provide access to hygiene care and products launched in Essequibo on Friday.
The initiative is championed by the Office of the First Lady and Mrs Arya Ali.
Some 54% of young girls had no access to menstrual sanitation, Minister of Education Priya Manichand pointed out during the launch at Anna Regina Multilateral School.
Taken from a recent unnamed survey in which more than 4300 school girls were respondents, the survey revealed that 35% of respondents left school because of a menstrual mishaps, the Minister said. 43% stayed at home at various periods, 84 % said they missed school for 1 to 6 days, 17% missed tests and exams and just 14% given a makeup test. “54% said that they used ‘other,’ such as tissue, leaves and toilet paper,” the Minister pointed out.
Manickchand said that persons, especially men, need not to feel uncomfortable when the subject of ‘menstruation hygiene’ arises, as it is a national issue that needs a resolution. “It’s not a girl issue, it’s a people issue, but sadly the reality is that it’s oftentimes an issue that girls face alone most of the time, and that has to change.”
First Lady Arya Alli, said that the initiative started when she learnt that girls were even leaving school because they had no access to menstrual sanitation. “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.”
The Regional Chairman, Ms. Vilma De Silva and Regional Education Officer, Ms. Nichola Matthews, both lauded the initiative, referencing its role in women empowerment. Ms. Matthews said during her remarks, “it is important that girls reach their true potential in school. Poor sanitation and lack of access to it has resulted in absenteeism and drop out, which in turn hinders true development… the First lady has recognised the importance of menstrual hygiene in unlocking a girl’s true potential, and this will be of tremendous benefits to the girls in this Region.”
The Regional Chairman, who is presently the only female Regional Chairman in Guyana, said, “It was time our females get some sort of recognition and be given an opportunity to air their challenges. Many times, because we sometimes only have males in leadership, certain things were left behind for our women folk. We now have a balance, and we’re happy that the issue of menstrual hygiene can now be addressed.”