London – Providing free sanitary products and puberty lessons to girls, especially in developing countries, may be effective in improving their attendance levels in schools, a study has found.
The research showed that in schools where sanitary pads or puberty education were not provided over 18 months, levels of absenteeism among girls were 17 per cent higher, as compared to those schools where pads, education, or a combination of both was provided.
This amounts to the equivalent of nearly three-and-a-half days of school a month, the study said.
In the study, the researchers focused on how puberty can have negative effects on a girl’s education and how they can be helped to manage periods and the bodily changes.
‘Many girls don’t know about periods before they encounter their first one. They are totally unprepared because they receive no information or training on how to manage them,” said Paul Montgomery, Professor at the University of Oxford.
Previous studies have already found that menstruation is viewed widely in developing countries as ’embarrassing’, ‘shameful’ and ‘dirty’; being unable to stay clean is one of the main reasons why girls stay away from their lessons.
Just by giving girls lessons in puberty or a purpose-built sanitary pad means they were more likely to stay at school during their periods, minimising the risk of disruption to their schooling, Montgomery added, in the study that was conducted in a large-scale trial on 1,000 girls at eight schools in Uganda, Africa.
The study, published in the journal, PLOS ONE, shows that there is now good evidence to back up such efforts to improve the education of girls and women, thereby raising their esteem and job prospects.