ON MENSTRUAL HYGIENE DAY, REFUGEE GIRLS MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD IN CHAD FOR THEIR RIGHT TO EDUCATION
On May 28, girls in Chad made their voices heard in demand of their right to menstrual health and education. Students at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) schools wrote letters to the Ministry of Education, explaining how difficult it is for them to continue with their education because of discrimination involving menstruation.
The activity was part of today’s celebration of International Day of Action for Women’s Health, a day that Chad dedicated to menstrual health. To mark the occasion the JRS, with the support of the Ministry of Education and other local and international organisations working on behalf of children in the country, held an event to raise awareness about the importance of menstrual health for girls’ education.
In Chad, as well as in many other countries around the world, girls miss school during their menstrual cycle. Missed school –or dropping out of school entirely– negatively affects girls’ rights and education, forcing them to stay at home and depriving them of a normal life. This gender discrimination is rooted in the social stigma about menstruation as well as a lack of access to personal hygiene products, adequate sanitary facilities, and a sexual health education that provides the information and support they need.
As a result, many girls in countries like Chad face significant risks of both social isolation and school dropout because of their menstrual cycle, with negative impacts on girls’ academic achievements, increasing their risk of forced marriages and pregnancies. All these risks are more threatening for the Sudanese girls who grow up in the Chad’s refugee camps, which is why the La Luz de las Niñas organisation focuses its efforts on providing support for these girls.
During the event held today, Sima Isaak, a refugee from the Goz Beida camp and student at the JRS Chad’s Lycée de Djabal school, delivered the letters to the Secretary of State for National Education, and spoke on behalf of her colleagues, referencing the experiences described in the letters: experiences of “fear and shame”, experiences that relate the difficulties of staying in school when the government fails to provide sufficient resources for girls. Sima, on behalf Chad’s girls, has called on all responsible institutions to implement the necessary measures to end the stigmatisation of menstruation.
She was followed by Mady Koumguessel, JRS Social Worker, who described the work our programme does to guarantee girls’ right to education, creating safe spaces where girls can freely express their concerns and questions, and receive the information and support about their sexual and reproductive health they need. The programme also distributes personal hygiene products, and the JRS promotes other initiatives that help girls stay in school.
The event also included a roundtable discussion, with several experts on the subject presenting the progress made and the pending challenges. The Ministry of Education committed to dedicating efforts to ensure that menstruation does not create an obstacle to girls’ education, and announced that this issue has been made a priority in the new National Strategy for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools. The strategy, officially presented yesterday, is largely based on improving those school conditions tied to menstrual hygiene, and aims for the majority of schools to reach the standards established by 2030.
To close the Luz de las Niñas event, Chadian girls-rights activist and artist Yasmine Abdallah joined together with Sima to treat the audience, which included over a hundred girls, to a song dedicated to girls and their rights.BACK