It was during one of the many school holidays that learners encountered due to covid-19 that three learners from St Boniface decided not to spend their pocket money on having fun but instead, think of ways to empower and uplift the next girl. The next girls were easily those that attend the missionary school next to their private school in the Kavango East Region.
Shambyu Combined school has 400 girls in both the hostel/boarding house and those that are day learners. They are all in dire need of sanitary products. According to the school principal Mrs Kalomo, more than half the female learners skip school each month due to the lack of sanitary towels and others are forced to attend school as a secondary priority due to the fact that they are female and have gender specified roles at school.
The St Boniface College learners under the flagship organisation of Girl Up, Girl Empowerment and the office of the first lady of Namibia Monica Geingos, manage to collect 200 sanitary pads just in time for World Menstrual Hygiene Day that is commemorated on 25 May. The day was spent with the three learners hosting an information session on how to take care of oneself, discussions about taboos and challenges related to that girls face, menstrual hygiene management, different sanitation products, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, women’s and girls’ empowerment. The participants left the event empowered to continue advocacy for menstrual hygiene in their own communities and spheres of influence.
“When one is able to take care of themselves especially from a young age, issues like infertility can be prevented. Our mothers and caretakers tend to leave it up to our school teachers to teach us how to take care for example how one should wipe, how long a pad should be worn, the extra care one should take when on periods. They cant teach us all,” Joy Kapepo stated adding that because of this many girls go unaware and get sick.
Another of the three Ndina Aily spoke on taking back the power when it comes to menstrual stigma.
“ We should be able to go to the shops and pick out our pads without shame. If you need a pad from a friend in class, you dont need to hide it or feel shy to ask fo help. These are natural occurrences. This is how we build confidence from the get-go in girls,” she said.
Kapepo concluded that when girls help and empower each other only great things happen.
“ We donated the sanitary pads because we want girls not to have a reason to have an education. Missing a day or the whole week of school each month accumulates to too many days missed at the end of the day and this should not be the case. We all have a right to an education that is uninterrupted. We can be scientists, engineers and lawyers but only if we are afforded a chance to study that are not disrupted by natural occurrences,” she said.