Live Q&A: Menstruation is keeping girls out of school – what can we do?

Live Q&A: Menstruation is keeping girls out of school – what can we do? Source: The Guardian, October 7 2016 |

Starting menstruation is a major factor in girls missing school in developing countries. Join an expert panel on Thursday 13 October, 2-3.30pm BST to discuss how to work across sectors to prevent this 

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Studies have shown that improved access to sanitary products increases school attendance among girls in Kenya. Photograph: George Mulala/Reuters

“I still remember the shocked silence the first time I brought up the issue of menstruation,” said Archana Patkar at Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council during a recent Guardian panel discussion.

She was describing working with colleagues in education looking at reasons for the dropout of girls from school at around ages 11-13. “[There were] a lot of discussions on teacher quality, classrooms, inadequacy of material, inappropriateness of curricular, but nobody was talking about what happens to girls at that point,” said Patkar.

Now there is recognition that starting their periods, and inadequate toilets and sanitation supplies, is a huge factor in girls missing out on their education. The United Nations Children’s Fund found that one in 10 African girls skip school during menstruation, and some drop out entirely. Not having access or money to buy supplies even leads to girls feeling that they must engage in transactional sex.

So how can the education and the public health and water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) sectors work together so that more girls complete secondary school? How can schools provide better sanitation facilities so girls aren’t afraid to go to school when they have their period? And how can girls get easier access to healthy sanitation products?

Join an expert panel on Thursday 13 October, 2-3.30pm BST, to discuss these questions and more.

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