This 'narrative' poem attempts to highlight just one of the reasons young girls drop out of school in developing countries. In rich countries where sanitary products are in abundance, it can be hard to comprehend the importance of female hygiene products.
According to UNESCO one in ten girls across Africa misses school due to menstruation and then eventually drops out. In Uganda, Oxford University found that where sanitary pads or puberty education are not provided, absenteeism among girls is 17% higher than in schools where girls have access to pads, education or both. Depending on the region and income level, parents sometimes cannot afford to buy sanitary products for girls, they are often more interested in marrying them off to offset living costs of the family. Thankfully, organizations and initiatives such as WeDeliverPeriod are bridging the gap so that young girls can stay in school.
“COMING OF AGE”
by Debra Ayis
She woke up to a map of blood
The offensive stain had defaced her threadbare mat
She wrapped her arms around her torso
As confusion and fear coursed through her body
Did that blood come from me?
She asked herself
Peeping precariously at her clothes
Examining her quaking limbs
Alarmed at her discovery, she let out a scream
'Mama help! I’m bleeding, am I dying?'
After listening to her frantic tale
Her mother broke down laughing
'You are now a woman' she said
'It came much later than expected.
Your father will be extremely pleased.
His business partner was interested in marrying you.
I am sure you will fetch a good dowry for us.
Make sure you learn all you can by the end of term.
Because this signals the end of your schooling.
We don’t have money for your womanly upkeep.
Your husband will have to worry about that now.'
The only problem was, she was not ready to get married just yet.
First published in the 54th Edition of the Round Table Literary Journal.