Fighting period stigma in Uganda

11 October 2019

Nadim used to like school. But then something happened that made her scared to go back.

She was sitting in class and noticed her clothes were covered in blood. She was terrified. She had no idea what was happening to her. Some of the boys were starting to point and laugh.

Nadim left and walked home in her stained uniform. She had just had her first period. She had never learned what a period was.

“When it happened to me, I became so disappointed and ashamed that I didn’t want to come back to school and classes,” she says.

Listen to Nadim tell her story

The real price of period stigma

How many girls miss school?

  • 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa do not go to school during their periods, according to UN estimates1
  • In some cases that could mean girls miss as much as 20% of the school year
  • Around the world, 131 million school-age girls are missing out on education2

Nadim is a bright, confident girl. But her experience left her feeling so embarrassed and confused that she couldn’t bring herself to go back to school.

Some girls never go back.

Think about that. Girls are missing out on their chance to learn. On skills and opportunities that will shape the rest of their lives.

No girl should be denied her chance at a better life just because of stigma around periods. It’s not right. Girls like Nadim deserve so much more.

Thankfully, Nadim did go back to school. It took her a week to find the courage, but she made it. She is strong.

Nadim was determined to learn everything she could about what had happened to her. But she didn’t have to figure it out on her own.

Tackling prejudice head on

Local experts from our Church network set up a health group at the school where she found the answers she was looking for. They explained that periods are normal and nothing to be ashamed of. And they didn’t just explain to the girls.

Our network enables us to reach people no one else can. That includes people who are excluded and marginalised because of social stigma. Our experts knew the only way to make girls feel safe at school was to teach the boys too.

Now, boys and girls attend the health group together. Together they learn what periods are and why they happen. They talk openly and ask questions. Hygiene experts teach them how to make reusable sanitary pads that keep girls safe from disease and everyone in the group takes part.

The boys don’t laugh at girls on their periods anymore.

"We can go to class without worry"

“Everything has now changed,” says Nadim. “Even the boys no longer have these kinds of perceptions, we aren’t scapegoated.

“We no longer think about things like this in school. We’re not bothered and we can go to class without worry.”

Today, Nadim loves school again. She’s made lots of new friends through the health group and loves playing sports with them.

“I am the best at football,” says Nadim. “I take part with the boys.”

She has got her confidence back.

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