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3ie-LIDC Seminar Series - Sanitary Pad Interventions for Girls' Education in Ghana: A Pilot Study

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 17:15 to 18:45

Distributing sanitary pads can improve girls’ school attendance and well-being, concluded November's 3ie-LIDC seminar ‘What works in International Development’.

During the seminar, Professor Paul Montgomery from the Centre for Evidence Based Intervention at Oxford University presented a pilot study evaluating the effectiveness of a sanitary pad intervention for girls' education in Ghana.

The project began with a collection of qualitative data to understand pre-intervention use of sanitary pads. It was discovered that in urban areas girls had some access to pads, while in rural regions there was no access at all, coupled with very limited toilet facilities. Girls frequently missed school during their period.
Culturally, menarche marks the passage to adulthood, indicating that the girl is old enough to marry, which often coincides with her being taken out of education. For the girls themselves one of the biggest issues surrounding menstruation was lack of privacy, taboos attached to menarche and embarrassment. A cloth was most frequently used as menstrual protection, but given that it was difficult to wash and dry, and often shared with others, it led to frequent infections.  
The researchers established that schools could be excellent vehicles for delivering the intervention. The project involved distributing pads to schoolgirls via school nurses, in partnership with NGOs and the government. Subsequently, data was collected on attendance, the incidence of vaginal infections, and overall well-being of girls. Girls were allocated to several groups using cluster sampling: sanitary pads plus education about menstruation; education only; no pads and no education, in both rural and periurban areas.

The study found that school attendance increased in all groups except the control group (receiving no pads and no education). The scale-up study will also include a pads-only group, as currently it is difficult to establish to what extent the pads were responsible for the effect. Attitudes towards education also improved. Concentration levels improved, and girls reported less fear of soiling and embarrassment. No difference was detected in this respect between urban and rural areas.

After the study, the Ministry of Education on Ghana decided to supply pads to schools as part of a bigger project. The research group is planning a scale-up study in Uganda.

Overall, the pilot revealed the intervention to be promising, although not without issues, such as whether a Western product is appropriate in rural settings in developing countries; environmental and disposal issues; sustainability of the intervention.

Participants at the 3ie seminar

Download the presentation

More about the 3ie-LIDC Seminar Series

PDF icon 3ie_montgomery_Final.pdf2.39 MB