Liberating the girl child

Liberating the girl child

LERIBE – For 16-year-old Lipolelo*, menstruation means a period of skipping the thing she loves most.
When it comes to schoolwork, Lipolelo is a dedicated pupil. But on some days every month, she stays at home to avoid becoming the joke of the class.
An orphan who lost all her parents at an early age and is under the care of her unemployed grandmother, Lipolelo is one of many girls that are forced to skip school because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

“I decide to just stay at home because I do not want to face the embarrassment of staining my school uniform which will make me to be a laughing stock of the school,” she says.

Her grandmother’s sole income – a M750 monthly pension – is hardly enough to put food on the table
“I depend on her old age pension. So sometimes I feel like it would be a bother to ask for sanitary pads,” Lipolelo said.

Thousands other girls face a similar problem, a situation that retards their progress in education – the only thing that can catapult them from poverty.
Some local businesses, working in collaboration with Hlokomela Banana, have stepped in to ease the problem and help keep young girls in schools during their menstrual periods.
Nedbank Lesotho is donating sanitary pads to girls at several schools in response to Hlokomela Banana’s pleas for help.
Hlokomela Banana, which in English means Take Care of Girls, is an organisation pushing for the welfare of girls.
Lesotho’s biggest bakery, Blue Ribbon, has undertaken to distribute the pads to schools.
Girls at three schools in Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Berea received pads under the programme. This week Nedbank will hand out pads to two schools in Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek.

The girls who have already started benefitting include Lipolelo, who described the gesture as “immeasurable.”
In some instances, girls have to rely on help from teachers who fork out their personal money to buy pads for students.

A teacher at Butha-Buthe Community, ’Mabokang Butšana, said a high number of girls at the school are in dire need of sanitary products.
“We know that for sure because a large number of students come to ask for sanitary pads from us as teachers,” Butšana said.
Butšana said although teachers often helped out, the huge number of children in need of pads makes it impossible to eradicate the problem though donations from teachers.

She said students that they were unable to get help missed school at least once every month because they could not face the fear of going to school without the pads.

Mantšupua Lephoto, a teacher at Lekokoaneng High School, says “some girls who cannot afford to buy the pads were suffering” before the donation.
Lephoto said most of the affected girls are from low income families. Others are orphans.
“They are many,” she says.

She says some skipped classes for up to seven days, a situation that affected their studies.
Female teachers and girls said those that did not have pads resorted to old socks or torn pieces of cloth. Others used toilet paper.

These alternatives carry the risk of reproductive health complications such as fungal infections, reproductive tract infection and urinary tract infection, according to Hlokomela Banana.
* Name has been changed

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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