Menstruation – Education changes everything

The theme of this year’s International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) was education. The founders of MHD argue that education on menstrual hygiene changes everything. They call for improved information and menstrual hygiene education   for boys, men, teachers, health workers and other professionals so that they can break down negative social norms and provide accurate information and support.

They have argued for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene management as a critical component of reproductive health training for adolescents, building the capacity of teachers to teach about MHM with comfort, the breaking down of taboos around periods, the availability of water and sanitation facilities in schools and work places in order that women and girls have privacy and dignity as well as policies that reduce the cost of menstrual absorbents and are kind to the environment.

sanitary towels

We have spent the past year looking at access menstrual hygiene in schools in Ntungamo district SW Uganda . The program focuses on the provision of information on menstrual hygiene as well as ensuring that girls can access menstrual absorbents.

In the course of the year we learned that 53% of girls we spoke to did not know what a period is before they experienced it. 42% of the girls regularly miss between 2-5 days of school each month during their period because they do not have access to sanitary products.

We also learned that some amongst the girls use unsanitary products such as old rags, mattress stuffing etc. during their periods.

Syson- Team Leader MHM program

Education about menstrual hygiene should concern us all. As part of this year’s MHD activities in Ntungamo, we distributed free Menstrual Hygiene kits to women in the village of Rwentojo SW Uganda. We have been working with this group of women on income generation

Education on menstruation

This got me thinking about the role of business in the promotion of menstrual hygiene. For instance, how and where does business fit into the promotion of menstrual hygiene? Is it through their supply chains or perhaps in places of work? Is this even an issue that business concerns itself with?

Do employers for instance, provide flexible working conditions that enable women that suffer painful periods to take time off or work from home should they need to? What about access to female only washrooms?

These are things that we in the West might take for granted but what about elsewhere in the world? For instance, a study entitled Menstrual Hygiene Management-The experience of nomadic and sedentary populations in Niger  found that 55% of women in Niger miss work as a result of their period. You can read the full report  here .

In my opinion, that sort of statistic would have huge implications for a business’s bottom line because it would impact productivity and outputs.

Menstruation hygiene matters to business in other but perhaps subtle ways such as the availability of skilled workers. Businesses need skilled people to grow and thrive and this cannot be achieved if the education system is not producing the necessary skills or female employees miss workdays due to periods.

With respect to education, in countries such as Uganda, access to Primary School Education is free under the Universal Primary Education initiative, but gaps exist in addressing issues that prevent girls from dropping out of school and some of these reasons are to do with poor menstrual hygiene management in schools.

This includes the availability of water, toilets, washrooms and hygienic menstrual products. It is not enough to increase school registration for girls who then drop out due to a lack of menstrual hygiene management.

In the long run this has direct implications for a country’s economic development due to a large number of girls who become adults that are trapped in poverty due to a lack of skills which they can use to create their own employment or access employment elsewhere.

The founders of MHD have argued, that in order for countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12, nation states must pay attention to menstrual hygiene management. This being the case; Governments, Civil Society as well as Business should take menstrual hygiene management seriously.

Our fight to enable women and girls to access information on menstruation and hygienic absorbents continues and you can be part of it by making a donation to our campaign at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/sanitarypads4girls

 

 

Menstrual Hygiene Management program is launched

The aim of our Menstrual Hygiene Management program is to ensure that girls and women manage their monthly period in a hygienic way. This involves ensuring that girls and women have access to information about menstruation as well as access to clean and safe menstrual absorbents.

 

Menstrual Hygiene
Letricia, Maria, Agnes and Allen setting off for Kampala

Following the set up of the sewing room in Ruhanga our menstrual hygiene ambassadors set off for Kampala for a  two week residential course

menstrual hygiene management
Gerald Karuhanga, MP for Ntungamo Municipality and Ida Horner, LTHT Chairperson discussing with Diana Nampeera, Days for Girls country director the effectiveness of the washable sanitary pads]

I arrived in Kampala two weeks later  just in time for their graduation.

Menstrual hygiene
Agnes receives her certificate from MP Gerald Karuhanga

Our 17 year old Agnes was top of the class.

menstruation day
Graduation day

The graduation was also attended by Gerald Karuhanga MP for Ntungamo district  where our ambassadors hail from. In his speech,  Karuhanga said that menstrual hygiene  is an issue that is very close to his heart and promised to prioritise it during his 5 year term as an MP. He further promised to lobby government to remove import duty on fabrics used to make sanitary towels

International Menstruation Day

Menstrual Hygiene
Menstrual Hygiene Day launch

May 28 was  Intenational Menstrual Hygiene Day and official launch our Menstrual Hygiene program across  Ntungamo District. The event was attended by at least 160 including officers from the district as well as the municipality.

Menstrual Hygiene Day
Mp Gerald Karuhanga launches LTHT’s Menstrual Hygiene program

The initiative was launched by Karuhanga MP for Ntungamo who promised to work with LTHT to ensure the success of the program across the district

Menstrual Hgyiene
Student from TEAM College shares her experience

 

In February this year thirty nine girls from TEAM College received free sanitary packs as part of our trial.  We heard from the girls and their Head Teacher on 28 May.  They told us the pads had changed their lives whilst their Head Teacher reported reduced absenteeism.

May 28 Menstruation day
Graduation Day

We heard about the Menstrual Hygiene Ambassadors’ experience at the residential course in Kampala, which included participants from Kenya and Ghana and they too shared their experiences. We heard about gruesome practices such as girls being sewn up during their periods, not being allowed to milk cows and digging holes in the ground and using these as a means for managing periods etc

Where are the men in the conversation

 

Menstruation matters
Men at launch day

As the event progressed it transpired that, hotel security  were excluding men from the event on the assumption that this was a women only event. One of the men took exception to this and complained to us. He said

we are the ones that make decisions in the home and you are excluding us  from the  meeting

He had a point. A point that to goes to explain why in 2016 we still need an International  Menstrual Hygiene Day. The fight for access to Menstrual Hygiene and sanitation should include men. We learned from our research that some of fathers believe that spending money on Menstrual Hygiene Management is a waste of money and that boys have a tendency to embarrass and shame girls during their periods

The Hard Work begins here

Allen and Agnes working on sanitary pad kits
Allen and Agnes working on sanitary pad kits

Now that the training is out of the way, work on producing sanitary towel kits for sell has started. And here are some of the completed products. I hope you are agree with me, when I say, they have done a fab job.

Menstrual hygiene
Finished wings

Can you help?

We have come a long way with this project and have set ourselves an ambitious goal of ensuring that every girl and woman in Ntungamo district can access sanitary pads at a reasonable cost.

Please consider supporting our efforts by making  a donation via our VIRGIN PAGE

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/sanitarypads4girls

Managing Menstrual Hygiene in Ruhanga- setting up the sewing room

Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health, yet in many cultures it is treated as something negative, shameful or dirty. The continued silence around menstruation combined with limited access to information at home and in schools results in millions of women and girls having very little knowledge about what is happening to their bodies when they menstruate and how to deal with it (source: developmentbookshelf.com)

This statement is true of girls in Ruhanga. We are working to change this and our journey starts here.

Menstrual Hygiene Management
The sewing room

This is our new sewing room that will serve as a training room as well as centre of operations.

Menstrual Hygiene Management

The local machinist tweaks the sewing machines before the girls are let loose on them. This type of a machine is known as a locker and here the machinist sets it up to ensure that it works and that it is threaded correctly.

 

Menstrual Hygiene Management
Waiting for interviews

With the sewing room set up, an advert went out to invite girls not in education or employment to attend an assessment day.

From left to right: Allen, Marion and Apophia -
From left to right: Allen, Marion and Apophia –

These are three of teenage girls that were selected to become ambassadors of our menstrual hygiene program. They will be put through an intensive training program including a a two week residential course in Kampala.

 

With no time to waste, work got under way and here the girls are practising their sanitary pads making skills
Menstrual Hygiene Management

Agnes cutting out pattens

 

Menstrual Hygiene Management
Letricia and Agnes

Team work- Letricia and Agnes threading the finishing machine

 

Menstrual Hygiene Management
Letricia

Letricia was a late addition to the team. She has caught up. This is the first liner she made independently.

 

Finance lesson

As well learning how to make sanitary pads, the girls are learning about managing money. These skills will be essential to the sustainability of the project. More about this in future posts

Jenn Dutton
Jenn Dutton

This journey has been made possible by Jenn who run the London Marathon in aid of Menstrual Hygiene Management. The money she raised has gone towards the setting up of the sewing room.  Jenn completed the London Marathon in 5 Hours 6 minutes. You can still contribute to Jenn’s campaign  at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JenniferDutton1

 

Menstrual Hygiene Management
Greetings to Jenn

 

Jenn Dutton takes on the London Marathon for LTHT

London Marathon
Jenn Dutton

My name is Jenn Dutton.  I am 23 years old and a full time nanny. I love to cook, bake and travel. On April 24th 2016, I will  be racing in one of the great British sporting events, the Virgin Money London Marathon  on behalf of LTHT.  The London Marathon is a gruelling 26 miles 385 yards long, passing through the streets of London from Blackheath to the famous finish line at The Mall.

Why am I doing the London Marathon?

I love to set myself challenges and believe that you must always push yourself and try new things. I really enjoy running and exploring new places with it.

I truly believe that LTHT is a fantastic charity and I would like to support the work that they do around Menstrual Hygiene for rural girls in Uganda . 

Rural girls in Uganda miss several days of school per year due to lack of sanitary towels. This, in turn, leads to many girls school results suffering and some girls even dropping out of school as a result. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make a difference to such girls if we work together

I like the unique ways in which LTHT works to improve the daily lives and futures of the women in Ruhanga . This inspires me greatly to train my hardest and give the marathon my all.

I hope to raise a lot of money for this small charity so they can help the people of Ruhanga to help themselves.

Please support me by making a donation at

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JenniferDutton1

Every little helps

https://www.myfundraisingfilm.com/view/080c5507-2893-4941-9786-94ac7e34df95?utm_source=RenderComplete&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=myfundraisingfilm

Skills Development Initiative : Tailoring

It has been widely accepted within the Post 2015 discourse that to impact poverty in future, it will be necessary to create conditions that can provide capabilities and an enabling environment that will ensure that people can take charge of their lives and lift themselves out of poverty. Read more

Tailoring

It has been widely accepted within the Post 2015 discourse that to impact poverty in future, it will be necessary to create conditions that can provide capabilities and an enabling environment that will ensure that people can take charge of their lives and lift themselves out of poverty.

The young people from Itojo Sub County suffer from under employed mainly due to lack of skills. Through the Skills Development Initiative, we seek to address the issue of worklessness and poverty amongst the youth by ensuring that they acquire marketable and transferable skills to enable them to have an equitable chance of accessing work and/or creating their own employment opportunities in the local economy.

In the last post, I provided you with an update on our Introduction to Computing for rural communities workshops. This post is about the tailoring workshops.

 

Access to Jobs- Uganda
Skills Development Initiative- Ruhanga SW Uganda

The initial take up of the tailoring workshops has been low with only four boys and eight girls choosing this workshop.

But according to Alex this picture is deceiving as end of term feedback has indicated that in fact many of those taking part in the computing workshops would rather be in the tailoring workshop. This will be addressed after the Easter break  and in consultation with participants.

11004612_465347016947709_2258493416907877618_o

As part of our sanitation program, we have been very keen to improve menstrual hygiene amongst teenage girls in Ruhanga and one of the products from the first tailoring workshops is handmade sanitary towels.

Skills Development Initiative- Tailoring- Uganda
Skills Development Initiative- Tailoring

A key aspect of the workshop has been ensuring that participants can cut fabric and operate a sewing machine

opportunities for girls- Uganda
Daphine in  a Tailoring workshop

Her Why

Komujuni Daphine, is 14 years and about to leave Primary School. She is interested in acquiring tailoring skills because as someone from a poor background, she is unlikely to continue in formal education. This is because her parents would not afford the fees.  She hopes that, the tailoring skills gained through this initiative would help her start her own business or access work somewhere else.

Daphine’s reasons for being part of the tailoring workshops sum up reasons why initiatives such as this are needed. What hope is their for rural girls such as Daphine whose parents can’t afford to pay for further education?

The community-based centre where the tailoring workshops are  delivered is now in need of expansion to meet demand and, as such, we now require a further classroom to ensure the girls such as Daphine have the necessary access to the training and equipment they require.

To support our work please make a donation at

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/skills4girls

Lunch boxes for patients and staff in ebola treatment centres

A few months ago we teamed up with Memuna and Sadia of the  Lunchboxgift initiative to fight ebola in Sierra Leone. The initiative was born out of the Ebola epidemic in the Western part of Africa.  Ebola has turned the lives of many upside down  to the extent that some can’t access a cooked meal let alone a nutritious one.  Read more

The construction of a toilet for girls

Dear friends

A big thank you to those that attended our fundraising event and or donated to  the sanitation matters to girls campaign. Access to a toilet is something that most take for granted but 2.5 billion  people  worldwide do not have access to a toilet  so we are grateful for your support with this project  Read more

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