What I Learned about MENstruation - Sylvere's POV

SHE is at its vibrant stage -- we are now up to our pilot phase, after traveling thousand of miles seeking different banana fiber suppliers. We now have chosen two cooperatives to work with us, and the extractor Machines are ready to be handed over to them. Before the extraction begins, we will train the farmers how to use the extractors.

Another part of our pilot  phase is developing our brand strategy. I have been amazed to be a part of the focus group conducted by Connie. The focus groups were really amazing, since I was the only”HE” among hundreds of  “SHEs,”  i.e., school girls across rural villages in Kayonza.

The girls also asked us a lot of questions and it was not so easy to respond to each and every single question that they asked us. Normally in Rwandan culture, it is taboo to talk about reproductive health issues like menstruation and puberty. 

Historically, some women and girls used to dig a short whole in the ground and spent like the entire day sitting on top of it while menstruating. It's completely different now, but menstruation is still considered a taboo nowadays. 

You may wonder how I could be comfortable with talking about menstruation, but for me it was not a big deal to talk about this issue with school girls since I studied biology and reproductive health. In addition. I am very experienced in public speaking and so I know how to ask the right questions politely to break down these social and cultural barriers.

Can you spot the HE in SHE? Junior Business Development Analyst Sylvere with girls and women of SACCA.
The most surprising thing that one young women said during one of our focus groups at the Street Ahead Children’s Center Association (SACCA) is that she described the menstruation as a common disease for girls. I realized then that it's incredibly important  for  girls and women to have proper menstrual hygiene education. I also wish they should be taught how to manage their period when it comes.

Boys also should learn  more about menstrual health too! They need to understand it and respect the difference between men and women, so that they do not stigmatize a girls while they are menstruating. They have to be trained to about that too. Many of these boys will become fathers of some girls too in the future, so what impression will they give to their daughters if they make girls and women feel  shameful or embarrassed about menstruation?

Overall, I learned that girls need to be aware of what menstruation means and how it changes their bodies before it begins. I also learned that girls need additional support when it comes to access to clean, safe, and hygienic products and facilities so they can protect their health and their privacy.

- Sylvere

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