This is Jackie, SHE Rwanda's Advocacy and Policy Manager, and I am excited to share an update from the HAHA (Health and Hygiene Advocacy) Team. We had our first live radio talk show on May 13th that was co-sponsored by our partners, VSO, to raise awareness on menstrual health issues in Rwanda.
I was joined by my colleague Nadia, SHE's Health and Hygiene Officer, Mukasine Caroline, a member of the Maternal and Child Health Department of the Ministry of Health and Uwimbabazi Sylvie, from the Ministry of Education.
At the beginning of the talk show, every participant was given time to express what they are doing in terms of supporting girls in to manage this issue; I explained how SHE works in partnership with other partner organizations and government agencies to raise awareness, provide training, and work with schools in order to break the silence around menstruation and menstrual hygiene and also to share best practices of menstrual hygiene management (MHM). SHE also talked about its advocacy in terms of tax exemption so as to have affordable and access to sanitary products.
- The Ministry of Health talked about how they raise awareness of MHM within its reproductive health sensitization programs, while the Ministry of Education confirmed its support of MHM by promoting the addition of girls’ rooms at schools and its basic requirements at all primary and secondary schools. They also talked about its financial support of MHM through its allocation of sanitation funds to schools.
We changed topics during the talk show to discuss how we menstrual health and hygiene awareness:
- Is menstruation really a challenge in schools?
- What is the response from the Ministry of Health to it?
- What are some of the inputs form the Ministry of Education to address the challenge?
- An overview of menstruation and its current management at the school setting
- Answering the audience's questions around menstruation
Below are some of the questions asked and this clearly shows the menstrual hygiene education is critical and needs to be widespread since taboos and incorrect beliefs around the topic is still an issue:
- Most parents still consider menstruation as a sickness and often keep their daughters at home. Several of them called and asked whether their daughter is sick or if this something normal.
- What are those days that one would consider to be safe days in one's menstrual cycle?
- When is it likely for a girl to become pregnant? Is it really safe that if you have sex with a girl during her period, that she will never become pregnant?
- Why is it that some girls experience serious pain during their menstruation while others do not?
- What are some medicines or ways of reducing the pain during periods?
- Are there some other products that one can use apart from pads during menstruation since pads are expensive?
- Why is it that some women have their period/menstruation but at time do not give birth or never become pregnant?
• Another person called Maniracyiza, called just to say thanks for the discussion.
- Based on questions asked from the audience, from the community and some more that were not answered due to time constraints, we would like to raise our voices as a call for action to all other organizations in support of girls' issues to join SHE's efforts in one or all three ways: (1) to raise awareness around MHM; (2) to lobby for policy change in schools as a way of raising MHM knowledge; and (3) to ask policy makers to waive taxes on pads so as to have them accessible and affordable.
Our next steps are to follow up with Radio Rwanda because they agreed to offer us more radio airtime and to host a show about menstrual hygiene again since there were so many questions still unanswered from the public. Exciting!
SHE's Advocacy and Policy Manager