It’s Gerardine, SHE's Junior Marketing Officer, and while it's a been while since my last post, I have so much news to share! Last week, I met with the UNICEF team that is doing a research project to learn more about menstrual health management (MHM) at the school level. I met a variety of people from different institutions including the Ministry of Heath, local hospitals, and WaterAid.
|Gerardine (fifth from left) representing SHE at a UNICEF discussion about MHM at schools.|
We came together to discuss how sanitation facilities and physical environments of schools serve as a barrier to the wellness and freedom of adolescent girls while they are menstruating.
After discussing this issue from the practitioner point-of-view, I was excited to learn directly from the girls themselves. My colleague Alphonsine and I led a focus group and met 16 awesome young ladies residing in the Gisimba orphanage. During our conversation, these ladies shared their experiences of when they first began menstruating, and one young lady shared a story that caused everyone to laugh.
“I am now 15 years old, but was 12 years old when my period first started. I was playing football (soccer) with boys. Someone kicked me in the stomach while playing, so when I later went to the toilet and saw my white underpants suddenly change to a red color, I thought I was injured from that earlier kick! I burst into teams and told my friends what happened. They assured me that I wasn’t injured, but that I finally begun puberty. They showed me how to use a pad, and while it was uncomfortable initially, I am now used to wearing pads.”
All the girls shared their experiences, namely the challenges they face which not only include accessing pads when needed. “I was at school when my period began while still in primary school. There were no pads available, so I had to use my notebook paper and it was embarrassing!” shared a 12 year old girl. Proper and safe disposal is also a challenge for girls while menstruating since many of them lack access to a safe, clean, private space to properly dispose of used pads. “The toilets are far from the classes, in addition to this, they also stink!” reported a 16 year old young woman. Many of the girls are so scared to dispose of pads in latrines and getting called out or mocked at school, that they impose a period of self-isolation.
At the end of our discussion, the girls had many questions about menstrual hygiene and the ins and outs of menstruation, which my colleague Alphonsine, SHE’s National Health Education Director answered. Adolescent girls can never have enough education when it comes to managing their menstrual period more effectively, and SHE is leading the way by instigating at the national level to have our education content incorporated among all schools so girls have access not only to menstrual pads, but to the health and hygiene resources and knowledge.
Until next time,