Before COVID-19 hit, 132 million girls who should have been in school, were not. That number has now been blown out to over 400 million girls. The chances of them returning to the classroom is significantly lower than boys, with increased domestic responsibilities and the focus for many families shifted to generating income.
Even without COVID-19, the reasons preventing girls across the globe from attending school are many and varied, including poverty, lack of access to clean water, the inability to manage their period, and societal views and pressures.
Did you know that an estimated 1 in 10 girls in Africa misses school because of her period? It’s something many of us take for granted, but for girls all over the world, being able to manage menstruation is a challenge.
To help combat this issue and ensure girls aren’t missing school because of their period, Cotton On Foundation works to distribute reusable sanitary pads to girls attending the schools they support, paired with education on hygiene.
In Uganda alone, 1,914 reusable sanitary pad packs were distributed in 2019.
More recently, Foundation partnered with Dignity Dreams in South Africa to distribute 421 Empower Packs at Dr JL Dube High School and Ethekwini Primary School in KwaMashu. Each pack includes six Dignity Dreams reusable pads, three pairs of undies, a roll on deodorant, a Dove Beauty Cream Bar, a facecloth, and a copy of My Body #NoShame, a fun and interactive menstrual health education book by Dignity Dreams.
Being able to manage your period should be a right, not a privilege.
In Uganda, wellbeing support for our supported girls in S4 and S6 (the two years where students complete qualifying exams) is vital to ensure they complete their final years of study. As part of this support, Cotton On Foundation has wellbeing initiatives in place run by trained counsellors working directly with girls in senior levels in established support groups.
During the pandemic, this looks like a Whatsapp group where students are able to communicate with each other and counsellors.
“Through this platform students have been able to open up freely to share issues that bother them. As a way of supporting the students during the lockdown, we came up with a media platform to share different things for example educational materials to keep them in check with their reading, share different experiences of lockdown coping mechanisms being used during this time of the pandemic, as well as act as a self-help group for all.” – Furaha, Student Wellbeing Manager Uganda.
Across the globe, in regions with limited water service*, collection of clean water largely falls to women and girls. Water service is considered limited when a round trip for water collection from an improved source exceeds 30 minutes. This creates a barrier to accessing a quality education – girls can’t be in school if they’re out collecting water!
To make sure this isn’t an issue for girls attending the schools we support, clean drinking water is provided at each and every one. To date, 102 tanks have been installed at Cotton On Foundation supported schools, with a total capacity of over 5,350,000 litres!
Access to clean drinking water at school means girls don’t have to travel to collect it, but it also goes a long way in ensuring they stay healthy, decreasing the likelihood of waterborne diseases such as cholera.
While schools are closed, team members from our Wellbeing and Education teams as well as our highly engaged teachers from Cotton On Foundation supported schools have visited the homes of students to deliver home learning packs. While visiting the students, these team members are engaging with the parents and carers to check in on how they are coping, and ensuring that they are encouraging their children to return to school when they have reopened.
These visits also include talks to parents/carers and their daughters to ensure they are safe and have the support they need to manage their menstruation.
Before COVID, Cotton On Foundation held numerous events at schools, designed to engage parents in topics that are important to student wellbeing. The last one held in 2019 was called Turn Up The Volume, a student-led event about abolishing violence against children in the home and at school.
Want to get involved? You can help support our programs keeping girls healthy, happy, and in school by shopping the Cotton On Foundation range. 100% of proceeds support quality education projects in Uganda, South Africa, Thailand and Australia.
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