Sanitary Pad Program in Ethiopia Breaks Barriers, Helps Girls Reach Full Potential

Edagegn is benefitting from a
Plan-supported program in Ethiopia.

For 16-year-old Edagegn of Ethiopia, a sanitary pad service supported by Plan International USA’s Because I am a Girl program has made a huge difference in her life.

“Sanitary pads are provided for teachers to give to girls when they need them,” she said. “At first, the girls didn’t use them because they were afraid to ask and ashamed to talk about it. But, now there’s a huge demand for it. It’s allowed us to explain what a period is to other girls. See, many girls come from rural areas and have no idea what it is. Sometimes they are afraid and think that it is something bad and that their parents will beat them and think they’ve been doing something wrong. It’s really important to talk about this.”

The lack of awareness when it comes to menstrual hygiene is part of a larger problem for girls like Edagegn. Nearly half of all girls don’t finish primary school in Ethiopia. The cost of school supplies and fees can make school a luxury, and many families choose to make the investment in boys rather than girls. Most girls start primary school, but when they reach puberty and start menstruating, they stay home, miss lessons, and ultimately drop out.

Menstruation is a taboo subject, and getting her period can be an embarrassing and difficult situation for a girl, especially when there is no water, sanitary supplies, or privacy in schools.

Where Edagegn lives, however, teachers now have a supply of sanitary pads for girls who need them, and they’ve been trained on how to deal sensitively with girls’ needs.

In the regions of Yeka and Akaki Kality on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the Because I am a Girl program is working to make schools safer and more welcoming for girls and boys. Libraries and classrooms are now stocked with books and materials. Schools have water tanks and hand‐washing stations for students to stay clean and healthy. Parents are receiving finance and business training so they can increase their income and support their children’s education independently.

And, thanks to the sanitary pad service, girls like Edagegn are provided with better opportunities. Gradually, barriers are breaking down and girls have a more welcoming environment to learn and grow. They are also developing the confidence to reach their full potential.

“We’ve learned that boys are equal to girls, and we can do so much,” Edagegn said. “We shouldn’t let little things keep us down.”