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 Day 2017

28 May 2017 is  Menstrual Hygiene Day  and we will be hosting a conversation about periods in conjunction with Ntungamo Municipality 

We bring together men and women, girls and boys as well as their politicians from the district of Ntungamo SW Uganda.

This year’s theme is Education.

We will explore the impact of Menstural hygiene on a girl’s education.

We will discuss the need to educate boys and men about periods in order to minimise the impact of social norms on women and girls

Our goal is to normalise the conversation about periods and continue the work we started last year. 

At this year’s event we would like to give out 1000 kits to school girls.  This would ensure that girls do not miss school days  because of a lack of access to menstrual absorbents.  We however cannot do this without your help  and you can make a difference for as a little as £1.

  • £1 provides a girl one pod that includes a napkin and a holder
  • £5 provides a girl a full kit
  • £10 provides two full kits
  • £20 provides 4 full kits

The pod and kits last for three years making this a cost effective way of managing periods. Please donate to our Sanitary Pads 4 Girls program today via our Virgin Money page

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

 A Word from Syson- LTHT Menstrual Hygiene Ambassador 

 

You can also donate via PayPal



https://youtu.be/1neNW3flWYk

Menstrual Hygiene Management in Ntungamo secondary schools

On 28 May 2016, we launched a Menstrual Hygiene Management program (MHM)  in Ntungamo district SW Uganda  with a view to ensuring that women and girls 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.

As part of the access to information aspect of  the program, our Program Manager and MHM Ambassadors  visited 12 secondary schools within Ntungamo district  SW Uganda over a course of 4 weeks. The team spoke with 1175 girls in all as well as some of their female teachers. Their findings are summarised below

sanitary towels

 

On average:

  • 53% of the girls didn’t know what menstruation was before they experienced it
  • 61% of the girls have felt ashamed or embarrassed due to their periods
  • 42% of the girls interviewed miss 2.6 days of school during their periods because they don’t have access to sanitary products which impacts negatively in their performance.
  • Students change their sanitary products every 9 hours.

Ntungamo

Our team looked into how girls in Ntungamo secondary schools manage their periods and how they access to menstrual hygiene absorbents, and these are their findings;

  • 48% of the students feel bad or very bad during their MPs
  • 73% of the students use reusable pads but on average they change them every 9 hours which is not hygienic or healthy
  • 13% of the students use reusable sanitary pads at school and a cloth at home
  • 9.1% of the students use a cloth
  • 4.4% of the students use leaves, mattress stuffing, toilet paper or nothing at all.

These findings are challenging to say the least.  We cannot allow this situation to persist as it has direct implications for poverty.

We want to offer these girls  a hygienic and sustainable  way to manage their periods. We also want to ensure that girls do not miss school days  because of a lack of access to menstrual absorbents.  We however cannot do this without your help  and you can make a difference for as a little as £1.

  • £1 provides a girl one pod that includes a napkin and a holder
  • £5 provides a girl a full kit
  • £10 provides two full kits
  • £20 provides 4 full kits

The pod and kits last for three years making this a cost effective way of managing periods. Please donate to our Sanitary Pads 4 Girls program today via our Virgin Money page

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

You can also donate via our paypal account


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