More than 32,000 girls access free sanitary pads under Menstrual Hygiene Initiative – First Lady

The Menstrual Hygiene Initiative coined by First Lady, Mrs Arya Ali, has allowed more than 32,000 school-age girls in Guyana to have access to free sanitary pads, as part of the overall aim of eliminating period poverty.

First Lady, Her Excellency Arya Ali made the announcement Monday during a presentation event on Menstrual Hygiene at the Umana Yana in Kingston, Georgetown.

First Lady, Arya Ali addressing the presentation event held at the Umana Yana

“This guarantees a better education and ultimately a better life for our children, girls in particular. Having reached this milestone, our attention is shifting to providing coverage for women,” the First Lady revealed.

The groundbreaking programme was officially launched in 2021 and aims to end period poverty, which has adverse social and economic effects in vulnerable areas of Guyana.

Period poverty is defined as the lack of access to sanitary products, toilets, menstrual hygiene education, handwashing facilities, and or waste management.

In Guyana, 84 per cent of school girls miss school between one to six days every year due to lack of access to sanitary products.

Recognising the effects of period poverty in the social and economic realm, the programme was devised.

The programme is more than just giving free pads though, it provides girls with necessary information regarding menstruation and menstrual hygiene; it also addresses shaming and dispels myths associated with menstruation

Now that the initiative has impacted thousands of school-aged girls, the First Lady highlighted that women in extremely vulnerable areas will be the next target of the programme’s expansion.

“My aim is to gradually expand coverage as more funding becomes available. So that we’re able to eventually provide full coverage to every woman and girl in Guyana. Ambitious right? I know. But we are halfway there and it is all because of support from our partners,” First Lady Ali underscored.

In 2022, the government approved $50 million towards the programme and oil company. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) also threw support behind this simple yet significant initiative.

Several First Ladies from visiting CARICOM countries also attended the event. 

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand

These include St Kitts and Nevis’ First Lady, Diani Jimesha Prince-Drew; St Vincent and the Grenadines’ First Lady, Eloise Harris and Bahamian First Lady, Ann-Marie Davis.

Ministers of Education, Local Government and Regional Development, Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, Sonia Parag and Dr Vindhya Persaud respectively, also attended the presentation.

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