What’s that one thing you remember about your very first period? I’ll go first – mine was a merry moment, LOL 😉
Back at school, I remember my mates having all these talks about menstruation and chatting about what sanitary towels were the best selling on the market. Now, this just sounded so cool to me and i couldn’t wait for “her” to arrive. When she eventually did, it then hit me I actually didn’t have all the information I needed on how to keep hygienic. But luckily at school, we had a “metu”(matron) who always told us all we needed to know during our “after prep kaboozi”. Funny how these ladies had all sorts of information we girls needed.
It’s quite unfortunate that the topic of menstruation still remains a taboo in many societies as social myths make it difficult for both men and women to openly talk about menstruation. In many parts of the country especially in rural areas, girls are not prepared and aware of menstruation so they face many difficulties and challenges at home and schools, especially with their first menses.
I recently had a chat with “Mary Amongin” (not real name) from Yumbe district who seemed frustrated by the fact that girls in her community including herself still miss school due to menstruation. “In the settlement, there’s only one NGO that provides for each girl 3 packs of disposable sanitary towels once a year which is always not enough. So we resort to tearing some of our old clothes to make reusable towels which of course can’t hold it for a long time, so we have to miss school during menstruation to avoid being stigmatized by the stains”
Oftentimes, girls and women have little or no knowledge about reproductive infections caused due to ignorance of personal hygiene during menstruation time. In very remote areas where women do not easily have access to sanitary products or even don’t know about the different types, mostly rely on reusable cloth pads which they wash and use again, and of course, are affordable to them. So, there should be a need to educate and make them aware of how to keep both the body and reusable towels clean during this period.
Also, awareness should be created to emphasize hygiene especially with the use of reusable sanitary products or the natural sanitary products made from materials like banana fiber, bamboo fiber, water hyacinth, and so on. Parents still have a big role in infrequently having those “menstruation” conversations with their children (and by this I mean both girls and boys). This will go a long way in addressing most of these issues and most importantly boosting the self-esteem of these girls, keeping them in school and most importantly encouraging the males to support the ladies during these monthly visits.
We definitely need to hear more of “Hey, it is normal and healthy to menstruate”, rather than being seen as unclean humans.
Peace Dralega Yikiru is a Programmes Assistant at Reach A Hand Uganda