The average woman will spend 3,000 days in their lifetime menstruating. Yet all too often menstruation is hidden and not talked about, which can lead to damaging misconceptions.
May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day. It’s a day to break the silence surrounding menstruation and acknowledge the role Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) can play in enabling girls and women to reach their full potential.
Adara is actively tackling damaging attitudes about menstruation, by supporting Kiwoko Hospital’s Community Based Healthcare (CBHC) MHM programme. This programme targets adolescent and pre-adolescent girls in five local schools to help them manage menstruation and stay in school.
When thinking about menstruation, we don’t often consider the impact it has on school attendance. But in places like Uganda many girls miss a week of school a month due to menstruation.
In the Adara-Kiwoko MHM programme, a senior female teacher from each school is trained to educate girls on adolescent health issues, including personal hygiene and menstruation. We also provide emergency sanitary items for girls who get their period unexpectedly at school, and build or upgrade separate female pit latrines with wash stalls.
Adara’s research team have been focussed on MHM, seeking feedback directly from girls to identify obstacles to school attendance. One girl said “I would stay at home whenever in menses.”
Many of the girls we interviewed said that access to sanitary pads would be hugely helpful in making sure they did not miss school. Without access to pads, girls are forced to use pieces of cloth or even leaves. They fear staining their school uniform, and being ridiculed by their peers.
“I have never used sanitary napkins,” said one girl attending school in the Nakaseke district. “But I think my attendance would be higher because I have heard from people that pads do not stain the uniform with blood. So I would not fear going to school.”
Another girl said “I would not worry about washing my napkin when using pads, and then I would attend school always!”
Approximately 300 million women are menstruating on any given day. It is an unavoidable part of being a woman. Rather than shying away from the topic, we should embrace it. By ending the silence we can better understand how menstruation affects women, and what we can do to address it. By starting the conversation we can also improve education, which can reduce the stigma.
Break the silence and build awareness.