Burkina Faso: Schools support girls during menstrual cycle

| December 8, 2019

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Many secondary schools in Burkina Faso are offering female students free pads and other products to support them during their menstrual periods. Lycée Schorge, a secondary school in Koudougou, decided to buy pads for the girls, as well as provide pain medication. The school also offers advice and discussion sessions on sexual and reproductive issues, counselling the girls not to be ashamed of their periods. The girls are comfortable and happy with the school’s approach, which allows them to better focus on their studies.

It is 10 in the morning and students are having fun in Lycée Schorge’s playground. But an eighth-grade student named Sakina Diallo is hiding in a corner of the classroom, which is unlike her. “The bridge is broken”—an expression used by girls to refer to the beginning of their period.

Fortunately, she has access to support for managing her menstrual cycle. Lycée Schorge is a secondary school in Koudougou, a city 100 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Baslayi Tindano is the director of the school. He says, “We have decided to buy pads to accompany them. For pain management, we have also injectable products like Spasfon or by mouth depending on the severity of the situation.”

To remove any awkwardness for the girls, Mr. Tindano ensures that the school distributes sanitary pads and provides advice. He says, “I tell them that to see their menstruations is a sign of fertility, and that they should not be ashamed—[and] use expressions like ‘girls’ sweets’ to refer to pads at the shop.”

Atia and Guedalia attend Lycée Schorge. They say they are comfortable and above all happy to know that the school provides sanitary pads and products to help with menstrual pain in a convenient way.

Atia is 14 years old. She had her first period at 12, when she was in sixth grade. She says, “The arrival of my periods did not surprise me because at school, they had already talked to us about it during an assembly.”

She says she is comfortable asking for pads at the health centre.

Lycée Schorge is no exception in the area. Guedalia previously attended Lycée Saint Joseph Moukassa in Koudougou. She says she has never missed classes because of menstruation. She explains: “I spent my first cycle at Lycée Saint Joseph Moukassa. There, when your periods surprise you at school, you go to the Student Desk and they give you a pad to just hold on until you reach home.”

Josiane is 18 years old and is in the eleventh grade at Lycée Schorge. She says she had two very different experiences. She studied at the provincial college in Koudougou during her first cycle. She says that, at the time, the school did not provide any support for girls. She explains: “When ‘the bridge of a classmate breaks’ by surprise, there are no pads to help her out. Together as classmates, we tried to support each other with a cloth or a sweater to hide the stains.”

But that experience is now just a bad memory. She says, “Now, I am comfortable at Lycée Schorge. They give us pads for free.”

This support allows the girls to better focus on their studies. It’s also more hygienic. Using pieces of cloth or clothing during menstruation exposes girls to the possibility of infection. Furthermore, the schools in Koudougou have separate toilets for girls and for boys. This gives the girls privacy during their periods.

The director of Lycée Schorge is grateful for the funds from the school and the support from some partners that allow him to offer these services to the girls. Mr. Tindano says, “We also organize discussion sessions on sexuality, menstruation, and, with the support of our partners, we give girls pads for free.”

This article was produced with the support of the Government of Canada through the project “Promoting health, sexual and reproductive rights, and nutrition among adolescents in Burkina Faso (ADOSANTE).” The ADOSANTE project is led by a consortium including Helen Keller International, Marie Stopes-Burkina Faso (MS/BF), Farm Radio International, the Centre d’information de Conseils et de Documentation sur le Sida et la Tuberculeuse (CICDoc), and the Réseau Afrique Jeunesse Santé et Développement (RAJS).