Her family, based in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatorial State, is too poor to buy her sanitary pads so she stays home to escape the shame of being among her classmates with a stained uniform.
Nyawut says she has to use old cotton rags to keep herself dry but over time they become torn and soiled, putting her at risk of infection.
I sometimes have to miss classes because the rags I use become too torn that I worry my clothes will get wet while I’m sitting at my desk, I feel dirty.
Economic collapse in South Sudan has sent the price of sanitary pads sky-rocketing. Before the country descended into conflict in July 2013, pads cost 2 South Sudanese pounds per pack. Now shops are selling them for 130 South Sudanese pounds.
At a time when 40 per cent of the country’s population are in urgent need of food due to widespread food crisis and famine, it’s no surprise that most local families see buying pads as a luxury they can little afford.
“I don’t have money and my parents cannot afford to buy me pads every month,” says Nyawut.
I feel ashamed each time the cycle starts because I keep thinking that the blood may flow down my legs and everyone will notice.
Because of this, she stays away from the school on the day she gets her period and when she returns, she avoids spending time with her friends during playtime.
The school head-teacher says many other girls also miss school when they are menstruating. The county’s education officials are concerned that over time this habit will have a negative impact on their education.
There is a substantial evidence that menstruation can have a tremendous impact on girls’ access to education and performance in school.
Girls have been shown to participate less in class, concentrate less and miss school days due to a lack adequate menstrual hygiene facilities and materials or low self-esteem because they feel ashamed or “unclean”. Some girls even drop out of school altogether.
Through its child protection in emergencies programme, Plan International has been providing Nyawut and other adolescent girls with dignity kits, including sanitary pads which can be washed and reused.
Since December 2016, 400 dignity kits have been distributed in Nimule and girls are also attending sessions to increase their knowledge and awareness of how to manage menstruation effectively and hygienically.
Nyawut now feels more confident about being in school at any time of the month.