INSPIRES: Investigating a reusable sanitary pad intervention in a rural educational setting
Although there is a lack of rigorous quantitative evidence on the links between menstruation and girls’ absenteeism from school, the qualitative evidence that exists indicates that girls can experience a range of problems when menstruating that may prevent or discourage them from attending school. Some of these are the cost of disposable sanitary pads and the unreliability of alternative, cheaper ways to deal with menstruation. This report details a research study carried out by Irise, an organisation set up to support the empowerment of women and girls in East Africa, to pilot a reusable sanitary pad among schoolgirls in Kenya. The aims of the study were to:
* Evaluate whether school absenteeism is altered by teaching schoolgirls to make reusable sanitary towels.
* Evaluate the acceptability of training schoolgirls to make reusable sanitary towels.
* Obtain an insight into menstrual hygiene management and how menstruation affects daily life for Kenyan schoolgirls.
* Obtain an insight into other reasons for absenteeism among Kenyan schoolgirls.
* Assess the feasibility of undertaking a cluster randomised control trial in a Kenyan school setting.
The study found evidence to highlight the association between menstruation and absenteeism among Kenyan schoolgirls, with around 5 out of 10 girls missing school at least once or twice during their period and the same proportion struggling to afford sanitary towels. There was a trend toward reduced absenteeism among the group of girls who were trained to make their own reusable pads. Most of the girls were amendable to the idea of reusable pads, but many of them required help to access and afford the equipment. The report recommends therefore that a community based approach would be needed to make the product feasible for the poorest girls.