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Cloth Pads in Tanzania – Government Secondary School 1

Government Secondary School girls on second visit with project leader Mya, Nikki's daughter Ayla and head teacher Immaculate washable cloth menstrual pad kits

Beatrice, Mya, Andi and I distributed some kits of washable cloth pads in Tanzania at a government secondary school in March 2019. We met these initial twenty girls at their government secondary school in a rural village in Tabora, central Tanzania. The girls were mostly menstruating (four had not yet begun) and were chosen as some of the most vulnerable/disadvantaged students in the school.

Cloth Pads in Tanzania - Government Secondary School 1st visit, teen girls, teacher Andy, Nikki, trustee Andi and head teacher Immaculate cloth menstrual pads Tanzania
Government Secondary School girls with washable cloth menstrual pad kits, teacher Andy, Nikki, trustee Andi and head teacher Immaculate

We gave each of them a questionnaire to fill in (see this blog for the questions) and then gave these determined young women* a kit including four pads are taught in Swahili and had little to no English. During the first visit, Beatrice and Mya worked with the children’s teacher Andy, who was absent on the second visit with illness.

We have kept these questionnaires anonymous to protect the twenty children and they had all tried the pads apart from the four who have not started their periods yet. These four girls said their mothers have put the kits away safe for when they’re ready. Sixteen of the students receiving cloth pad kits in Tanzania are from Form 1 and four from Form 2 were in this initial test group, and they were amongst the most vulnerable in the school. On our next visit we are hoping to distribute kits to the fourteen girls in Form 3 and twelve girls in Form 4 (26 pupils). In Form 1 there are 31 girls who we will distribute kits to in the future, however we are in desperate need of some fundraising to pay for the pads to be made and for the fabric.

Kits of Cloth Pads in Tanzania

Due to this being a government school, the pupils are mostly living in poverty and cloth pads in Tanzania are virtually unheard of. Many of the families aren’t supportive of the children going to school, the headteacher struggles with families coming to ask if their children can leave school early to start generating income for the family. Parents of girls are most likely to not want their child to be educated but instead to work. The government says children must stay in school until they finish Form 4. At the end of form 4 they take an exam and if they fail they are allowed to leave or repeat the year. Sometimes with the offer of a child having vocational training, such as sewing, the families will allow them to stay in this kind of education a little longer because it has the chance of better income generation.

Only school for three villages in the area and the pupils have to travel a long way to school, they wake up at 4am to be on the road to walk to school. After school they often have to go and do farm work (during the rainy season) or other work. This school doesn’t have boarding facilities but some families manage to board the pupils in the local village. There is an issue with local men take advantage of school children (usually girls), rape and coersion. Often the girls get pregnant from being assaulted and they can no longer go to school. The government don’t support these pupils any more since the change in presidency so if a girl becomes pregnant, her education is finished. Children often have to take part in sexual acts and are given payment in school uniform, disposable menstrual pads, food or money.

These children need education about body autonomy, menstrual cycles, family planning and safe sex. With the provision of the menstrual cloth pads in Tanzania, we’re hoping to improve their attendance and their chances of passing the Form 4 exams to stay in school. Our next blog will cover the answers from the 16 girls who have tried our washable cloth menstrual pads. You can read their answers and what we’ve learnt from the cloth pad testing questionnaires in our blog here.

*see our blog on gendered language (coming soon) for the use of group pronouns. The laws in Tanzania and language barriers make it impossible to ask these young adults their pronouns and they are referred to as “waisichana”, girls, by the teachers so we have decided to use female terms in blogs about specific groups of people. This helps our SEO, or Google rankings, for people looking to help “pads for girls in Tanzania” but please know we are happy to help anyone in need of pads to attend school, for menstruation or continence. Nikki