Government has been advised to devote money into teaching female students how to make their own sanitary pads as the surest way of improving hygiene and encouraging enrollment in school.

Government last year procured a loan, part of which is to supply sanitary pads to some less privileged students under a scholarship scheme in the Ghana Secondary School improvement programme aimed at encouraging them to stay in school.

Minister of Education Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang had argued: "The girl seem to be in school up to about class three and four and they begin to drop [out]. A lot of theories have been expounded as to why this is happening. So the issue of girl's sanitation is not a laughing matter. It’s a very serious issue."

In furtherance of that, Awo Aidam Amenyah, Executive Director of J Initiative, a youth and family focused NGO, says purchasing and distributing pads to girls in schools is not the solution to issues of menstrual health and hygiene.

She spoke to ahead of today’s commemoration of World Menstrual Hygiene Day. UNICEF estimates that 1 in 10 girls in the African continent either miss days at school during menstruation and many drops out of school entirely because they do not have access to appropriate facilities to manage their menstruation.

“I think that teaching young women how to make a reusable sanitary pad is a more effective strategy and also empowers young women to take control of their own menstrual health and hygiene. Charitable hand outs are not always an effective solution to a problem,” she stated.

She explained, “If I purchased a box of sanitary pads for a girl, I imagine that she would be thankful but what happens when that box is used up and empty? I am not there to supply her with her monthly supply of sanitary pads. I am thinking about the phrase “give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for life.”

World Menstrual Hygiene Day: Teach girls how to make pads, gov't told

Awo Aidam Amenyah said J Initiative believes attaining quality education cannot be hinged on provision of the usual things we know about like the; Teachers, textbooks, classrooms, furniture and computers.

“So far, studies have shown in Ghana and around the World that attaining parity has more to do with some hidden factors which nobody hitherto pays attention to and one of these is how the girls in our education systems are able to manage their monthly menstruation. What happens at this time of the month has largely contributed to the most girls’ schools attendance, retention and completion.”

Awo Aidam Amenyah also questioned the sustainability of the project.

“I am not quite sure I would want to dwell much on how the issue of sanitary pads affect girls education because it is a potential for making girls public ridicule just as when it was first said that government was to provide pads to girls in schools. I thought what we should have been asking then was the HOW and the sustainability of the whole concept which could cause the decision makers to think or consult on the whole process. Unfortunately, that did not happen rather we see people with little knowledge about the indicators for Quality education making a case that the initiators were substituting Quality education for sanitary which to me will go a long way to affecting girls who use rags during menstruation negatively.”

Meanwhile, the GCELE programme in collaboration with J Initiative (JI) girls have been assisting school girls in deprived areas to produce their own comfortable sanitary pads breathing back hopes and smiles into otherwise an uneasy recurring period every month.  The girls are taken through the whole process of making the pads and at the end of the programme.