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[READ] Advocating against period poverty and female genital mutilation in The Gambia

Reusable pads shared at St. John's School for the Deaf. © UNFPA The Gambia

BASSE, The Gambia – “When a girl starts to menstruate, that's when the problems usually start,” said Ndeye Rose Sarr, UNFPA’s representative in The Gambia.

As many women and girls know, periods can be painful. Physical symptoms such as cramping and soreness, combined with the stigma surrounding menstruation, can interrupt schooling, work and women’s and girls’ full participation in society.

Ms. Sarr said period poverty, or the inability to access or pay for menstrual hygiene products, is an especially acute issue across The Gambia’s rural areas – one with long-term implications for girls when it comes to education.

“Period poverty leads to girls skipping school for around five days every month because they worry about staining their clothes and being shamed. That’s between 40 and 50 days in a school year,” she said.

To address this challenge, UNFPA has launched an initiative in The Gambia’s Upper River region, Basse, to produce recyclable sanitary products that will be made accessible for free in schools. Women factory workers machine sew the reusable pads, providing opportunities for income and employment.

In the schools, UNFPA takes “the opportunity to talk about bodily autonomy and comprehensive health education, so that girls know more about their bodies, what is okay and what is not okay”, Ms. Sarr said.

“I think we are making a difference.”

Ndeye Rose Sarr speaks at an event on Menstrual Hygiene Day. © UNFPA The Gambia


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