When Basic is Not so Basic

I had just got to work and was settling down when I heard a knock on the door. One of my female students was standing at my door with a worried look.

I invited her inside and closed the door quickly: My instincts told me all was not well.

We’ll call my student Angela.

Angela asked me to lend her some money to buy sanitary pads, and promised to refund me the following day. She stressed that her mother could only raise the money the following day. She didn’t know where else to go, so she came to me because the matter was most urgent.

Angela later returned, wearing a wide smile and thanked me. And true to her word, she refunded the money as promised.

I have worked with Village Impact for more than two years, and I am sad to say that this scenario doesn’t surprise me anymore.

It is a persistent problem that stretches across both Primary and High Schools.

Though the government tries to supply free sanitary pads so as to ensure that girls stay in school even during their menstrual cycle, the demand is too high and the gap is too wide.

This issue is so commonplace, that educating parents on how they can save a little money every day for the sake of their daughter’s self-esteem and emphasizing the importance of keeping them in school so that they can compete fairly with their male peers, has become a routine meeting.

It is especially a problem with many of our students who basically live on their own, because their parents are almost always away or with grandparents.

Issues of low self-esteem and shame are deeply associated with the perfectly normal and natural monthly menstrual flow.

Informing parents has shown improvement in their taking up their responsibility to ensure their daughters are covered.

Additionally, we have made strides to educate our female students, encouraging them to keep a ‘safety nest’ in their school bags–as they are still undergoing adolescence, irregularity is very common. This saves them the shame of soiling their uniform, upholds their privacy. Young ladies who require medicine to control pain are taught to keep a few pills with them at all times.

Being intentional in educating and empowering our female students has brought about better relationships between these young women and their
parents/guardians, as they feel loved and that their needs matter. Their self-esteem has improved dramatically. They have become courageous if they need to seek help for the day.

And more and more young ladies are now staying in school consistently!

With the all this in mind, I collaborated with the school administration to keep some sanitary pads in my office, and with another female teacher, to ensure we are prepared if a surprise situations arises. Contributions to purchase these supplies comes from administration and/or teachers’ contributions, depending from school to school.

What I have learned from the experience is, “What is basic to one person is not so basic to another person!”

By Elidah, School Counselor