Windhoek-Even though many female Members of Parliament have been avoiding debate on the provision of sanitary products, the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, has joined the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Namibia (FAWENA) to roll out a project that will see needy school-going girls receive free pads.
Studies show that if a girl is provided with sanitary pads, her chances of staying in school are 30-50 percent higher.
“It is a sad reality that girls from low-income families across the country are struggling to afford sanitary protection. Although not widely reported, this problem can impact negatively on a girl’s confidence and concertation levels at school. In extreme cases, some girls will skip school and even drop out altogether. I have heard of cases in which girls are forced to use cut-outs from mattresses, newspapers,” the minister said.
Early this month, Nampa reported that female Members of Parliament in the National Assembly shied away from debating the provision of feminine hygiene products to needy school girls.
According to Sister Namibia, there are girls who miss three to five days of school every month, because they cannot afford sanitary products.
Nevertheless Hanse-Himarwa has always been pushing this agenda, which culminated into a sanitary project launch by the ministry together with FAWENA yesterday coinciding with the International Day of the Girl Child.
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, said it is hard for needy school-girls to stay in school because some shy away when their monthly cycles come and they do not have pads.
“You should feel free that there is a minister who debated in Parliament and is adamant that you must be given pads so that you don’t miss school. Stay months after months in school,” she encouraged learners.
Since the project is new, the ministry has allocated N$250 000 for sanitary pads, while Morcar Fishing company donated N$850 000 and they pledge to contribute annually and increase the amount.
National Chapter Coordinator for FAWENA, Marlene Mugunda, said the project would be rolled out throughout Namibia to benefit all needy school-going children. Each school would have a focal teacher who would help in identifying the needy ones and then refer such cases to a social worker who will then contact FAWENA.
Hanse-Himarwa, who launched the project, said the government needs as much help as possible because providing for the needs of the girl child should be a collective effort.
The minister noted that there are direct and indirect barriers that combine to impact negatively on the education of a child.
According to her, the root causes of these barriers can generally be attributed both to low-income earnings at household level and to the budgetary constraints within which the government must operate.
She said it is for this reason FAWENA is keen to partner with stakeholders, who are eager to play their part in ensuring that the Namibian child receives a quality education.
“It is in light of this that I call upon the broader society to become involved in the education of their children, and that the education of our children is not impeded by secondary factors,” she said.
Further, she said when girls stay in school they are less likely to get HIV infection, wages go up, teenage pregnancy rates go down.
She said while boys too face many challenges, one challenge, unique only to girls occurs when they reach puberty.