April 22, 2015 – By Carola Frentzen

When girls in Africa have their period, they often miss several days the school. There is a lack not only of hygiene articles, but also of openness. But there are projects and ideas to improve things.

Addis Ababa / Muka Turi. (AP) So it looks in the Western world: On Send shelves neatly 50 kinds of pads and tampons are lined up. Super and Mini, with wings, fleece surface or subtle fragrance – girls and women in menstrual hygiene items for the election. In most African countries, this is unthinkable, especially for the rural population. When girls here have their period, they can not go to school because they have nothing available, what the bloodstream holds up to four or five days. An almost forgotten problem, little attention.

“The women have always had usually leaves or rag to make do – but they have no underwear, which is one of the biggest problems,” says Becky Kiser. The American support her charity “Trampled Rose” in northern Ethiopia girls and young women to regularly attend school.

“18 months ago we together with government officials, teachers and students organized a workshop to determine what kind of girl is the biggest problem,” says Kiser. “It was, above all the hunger problem: they desperately needed food, to concentrate in lessons. But a close second called the girl’s menstrual problem. ”

With the distribution of binding, it is not done, because in schools the girls do not have a clean space with privacy. Approximately in the Wuchale-school in town Muka Turi, about two hours north of the capital Addis Ababa, there are only three toilets for several hundred students. However, there is a lack of water. The fly-infested pit latrines, which anyway have no door, beastly stink and are clogged with feces.

A solution to the dilemma was only when Kiser a year ago randomly Emebet Tameru Tadesse met. The entrepreneur, who has lived 20 years in the Netherlands, knows the African Problem with menstruation. “The family is simply not talking about the period, the subject is shameful and totally taboo. I myself have toilet paper stuck between my legs to go to school. ”

Four years ago, Tadesse developed the idea of reusable cotton bandages and let her invention in Ethiopia patented. The three napkins per package could be used up to two years, she says. Among the customers of their company “Maryod» today include the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Lately she makes even tying up with sewn elastic, often because of the lack of underwear.

“Tampons are not an option because the girls think about losing her virginity and later to find a husband,” says Sabine Beckmann, who works in Addis Ababa as UNFPA program coordinator for reproductive health.

Also Kisers organization is a regular player at Tadesse and has already 6000 girls help with the washable napkins since the beginning of 2014. In addition, a room was set up in all 17 of the “Trampled Rose” supported schools in the region North Shoa, where the girls can be undisturbed, get a change of clothes in case of severe bleeding and get napkins.

“My whole life has improved,” says Lelise Tesfaye. The 18-year-old is best in class in her year and will again study medicine. “Previously I’ve used all kinds of materials, but I have always missed still several days of classes.” The true Mimi Tolosa (17), which has to run twelve kilometers every day to reach the Wuchale school. Bleeding and no binding could until last year the long haul just not make it. Now they have better marks than before, she reported.

In addition, the girls are now much less sick, stressed the english teacher Woutsift Fentaw who has taught for 20 years in Muka Turi and is committed there vigorously for the rights and the education of their students. “Before, they were suffering from diseases because they simply did not know about hygiene.” Strong infections in the genital area were on the agenda. Therefore, it is very important to finally be open about the female cycle to give out information also among the young – and the African menstrual taboo a break once and for all.