Fatoumata Z Coulibaly | May 29, 2023
Afoussatou Tall Koné is a teacher at the Sido-Soninkoura School Group "B" in Segou, Mali. At the beginning of every week, she checks the availability of fabric for making sanitary pads before classes begin. She says, "We have more than 70 washable sanitary napkins in reserve for the girls. They use them in case their period surprises them at school.” To keep girls in school during their menstrual period, the school makes and distributes sanitary napkins. Yacouba Sangaré is the director of the school. He says that using sanitary pads in schools ensures equal learning opportunities between girls and boys and reduces girls' absenteeism. while allowing them to better concentrate on their studies.
It’s Monday morning, and students are filling up the schoolyard at Sido-Soninkoura School in Segou, Mali. Afoussatou Tall Koné is a teacher here. As she does at the beginning of every week, Mrs. Koné checks the availability of fabric for making sanitary pads before classes begin. She says, “We have more than 70 washable sanitary pads in stock for the girls. They use them in case their period surprises them at school.”
To keep girls in school during their menstrual period, the school makes and distributes sanitary pads. Mrs. Koné says, “Educating young girls about menstrual hygiene during puberty is a priority. Their needs must be met by allowing them to continue their schooling normally.”
To meet the need, the school set up sanitary facilities, and produces and distributes reusable sanitary pads.
In 2022, the school received training and support from a project run by the NGO, DEFI. Students and teachers, including Ms. Koné, were trained how to produce sanitary pads. After the training, the NGO gave the school a sewing machine and regularly donates the fabric needed to produce the pads. The school set aside a room where the trainees meet in their free time to produce the pads. At the end of each month, they distribute the pads to the girls in the school.
Yacouba Sangaré is the director of the school. He says that using sanitary pads in schools reduces girls’ absenteeism and ensures that they receive equal learning opportunities. Mr. Sangaré explains, “Girls could be absent for a whole week because of menstruation. Some had difficulty getting sanitary pads.”
In addition to sanitary pads, the school helps girls with their workload and stress during menstruation. He says, “If some girls’ periods coincide with exam time, they are rescheduled.”
Kadidia Sidibé Diarra is a midwife and health specialist with the Association de Soutien au Développement des Activités de Population-Mali. She says that good menstrual management is important for women and girls’ dignity and well-being. Ms. Diarra adds that menstrual hygiene enables women and girls to avoid genital tract infections, whereas lack of access to adequate sanitary protection can increase the risk of infection. She believes that menstruation should not be a taboo subject, especially in schools. She adds, “We must educate young people to understand that menstruation is normal and natural. If it did not exist, the human race would not exist either.”
The school in Segou has 686 students, including 332 girls. Thanks to the availability of sanitary pads, it is an example of equality of learning between girls and boys.
Adam Ba is a 6th grade student at the school. She uses the washable sanitary pads offered by the school. Ms. Ba appreciates the pads because they can be used over and over again if they are well-maintained and washed properly. She says, “These pads at school allow us to keep up with our schooling and deconstruct the myths around menstruation.”
This resource was produced through the “HÉRÈ – Women’s Well-Being in Mali” initiative, which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health well-being of women and girls and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, and the district of Bamako in Mali. The project is implemented by the HÉRÈ – MSI Mali Consortium, in partnership with Farm Radio International (FRI) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) with funding from Global Affairs Canada.