Godaita Schools install sanitary Pad Vending Machine
Menstruation and menstrual hygiene practices are still a subject of taboo in many parts of Nepal. It is also a big barrier in the path of menstrual hygiene management. Most of the adolescent girls from rural area do not have access to sanitary products or they know very little about the types and methods of using them. To contribute to positive menstrual hygiene management, Save the Children with partner NGO Rastriya Rojgar Parwadhan Kendra (RRPK) supported sanitary pad vending and burning machine (Incinerator) in four schools of Godaita Municiplaity in Sarlahi as a pilot test.
A total of 1241 adolescent girls currently study in those four schools. Sanitary pad vending and burning machine is a self-service technology used for dispensing sanitary pad against acceptance of coins. It is also used for disposal (burning) of used sanitary pads in a hygienic way using the incinerator. Due to lack of sanitary facilities in schools, it was found that girls were hesitant to attend school when menstruating due to fear of leakage and blood stains on clothes. They skipped school days to avoid humiliation of being seen by others. Adding to the problems were lack of proper disposal system, broken lock/doors of toilets, lack of water and bucket.
In many schools, both male and female teachers are not able to discuss menstruation and menstrual hygiene management with students. Although the government of Nepal provides free sanitary pads to lower secondary and secondary level schools, most of the male teachers are reluctant to handover sanitary pads to girl students due to the social dynamics and many schools lack enough female teachers for assisting. RRPK held a discussion with the community on menstrual hygiene management and the importance of eco-friendly vending and burning machine for sanitary pads.
Following that, RRPK received a request letter from the school, demanding sanitary pad vending and burning machine. RRPK, with support from Save the Children handed over sanitary pad vending and burning machine to the schools with the purpose of promoting menstrual hygiene in those school. The machine works by dispensing a sanitary pad each time a coin is dropped, and a dispensing button pressed. The students can also place the used sanitary pads inside the incinerator and burn it to ashes. The coin is available with the dedicated facilitator (a female teacher). Orientation on use of the machines were also provided to the male and female school teachers. And a dedicated female teacher has been selected to facilitate the use of vending machine for the adolescent girls. A back up teacher is also selected in case the dedicated facilitator is on leave.
After support of automatic sanitary pad vending machine in schools, the girl students were very excited and happy because they no longer have to ask for sanitary pads to their teacher and feel embarrassed. The girls are now able to receive the pads from the vending machine automatically and they can also dispose it properly by burning using the machine. As the schools have close to 1241 adolescent students, majority of them who are of menstrual age are benefitting from the machine. This has also gradually reduced the absenteeism of adolescent girl students, according to verbal report by the schoolteachers.
"We had never heard about this vending machine but now we are using it for acquiring sanitary pads during menstruation. We don’t have to feel embarrassed while asking for sanitary pads to teachers anymore”, says Bhibha Kumari (Class 8).