This African Feminist Was Jailed for Demanding Free Sanitary Pads for Girls
1 in 10 girls misses school because of their period.
Earlier this year, Stella Nyanzi was jailed in Uganda after criticizing the country’s president for failing to deliver on his promise to give sanitary pads to all school-aged girls in the country to help female education rates.
Nyanzi called President Yoweri Museveni “a pair of buttocks” over the issue, and spent 33 days in jail for it.
The campaign, #Pads4GirlsUS, which was recently featured in a story by the Associated Press, currently visits schools throughout the country to distribute pads, but is calling on Museveni’s government to follow through on its promise to provide them for free.
According to the United Nations, one in every 10 African girls miss school during menstruation each month.
“Girls and young women are not going to stop menstruating in the near or far-off future,” the campaign said following her release. The campaign currently visits schools throughout the country to distribute pads, but is calling on Museveni’s government to follow through on its promise to provide them for free, according to the AP.
Other countries in Africa have begun to respond to the pressure. In Kenya last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a law that will provide pads to girls across the country. Zambia made a similar commitment in 2016 to provide pads to girls in rural areas.
But in Uganda, girls are still waiting. The poverty rate in Uganda, where 34% of the country lives on less than $2 a day, can make purchasing sanitary pads or tampons nearly impossible for many girls and their families, according to the report. In many cases, the girls simply stay home instead.
Officials in the country’s capital, Kampala, launched a program to provide biodegradable pads to teen girls in the district, which ended absenteeism in the district, according to the Associated Press.
“We looked at the absenteeism rate and you would find that in a class if there are six people who are absent, at least four of them are girls,” Vincent Odoi, a teacher at Wampewo Ntakke Secondary School in Kampala, Uganda, told the AP. “Some boldly came to us and said, ‘When we are on our period there is no care, so that’s why we prefer staying at home.’”
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The environmentally friendly pads, created by a Ugandan professor, cost less than traditional, imported pads, and the district spends $1,000 on them each term, according to the report.
“If other head teachers can follow the same example and give out free pads, I think it will be very good for this country,” Vincent Odoi, a teacher in the district, told the AP.
Uganda’s president has not said whether he will follow through on his initial promise to provide the pads throughout the country, but for Nyanzi and other activists, the quest to ensure an equal chance at education for Uganda’s girls will keep them campaigning to get #Pads4Girls, for free, for all.