By Gatonye Gathura
There is no evidence that free sanitary products have significant schooling benefits among girls in poor countries, say researchers at University of Oxford, UK.
Even when distributed to adult women, they do not provide any significant social or economic benefits, wrote Julie Hennegan and Paul Montgomery of University of Oxford.
The duo say the practice of ‘outing’ girls when they are menstruating may unintentionally expose them to stigma, harassment or even unwanted sexual attention.
“Stigma, harassment, and unwanted sexual attention arising from the disclosure of menstrual status have been documented,” they write in a February issue of the scientific journal Plos One.
The team screened 10,674 studies from poor and developing countries but only settled of on eight studies three from Iran and one each from Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nepal, and Kenya.
But even the eight were described to be of poor quality several concluding that providing sanitary products to girls improved standards of education. On the other hand some studies claimed giving the same to adult women improved work output.
However the facts as presented in the studies failed to support these conclusions. The question whether benefits of free sanitary products are based on facts or industry sponsored activism was kicked up last year.
In June Rebecca Calder, a researcher and founder of Spring Accelerator, a group which helps adolescent girls in Africa in business start-ups questioned the rationale of free sanitary programmes.
Calder cited 11 studies one of them done in Kilifi, Kenya, on girls’ school absenteeism concluding that menstruation was hardly to blame.
Most of the studies, including the Kilifi one which covered 2,500 girls showed sickness, poverty, and family responsibilities, in that order, as the main reasons for school absenteeism.
She suggested this is one way research finding are being used by commercial interests to create long-term markets for their products.
In what could so far be the biggest embarrassment for Kenya’s science, in July a globally influential study on the link between mass deworming and schooling failed replication tests.
The Kenya study, carried out in Busia County, raised an unusual storm because it has been very influential in shaping deworming policies globally and within the World Health Organisation (WHO).
When the Busia study was analysed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Cochrane Review the data did not support findings that mass deworming has significant benefits.
In Kenya about six million children are receiving the deworming pills while globally they are reaching 95 million pupils.