Menstrual Hygiene Management

Menstrual hygiene management is treated as a taboo to speak about in public. The vast majority of school girls in Tanzania are facing a critical need of menstrual related hygiene, especially as they enter, and live through, adulthood. Complications associated with menstruation cycles is the major cause of girls’ absenteeism and high dropout rates in schools, as well as hygiene complications and agonies associated with menstruation cycles for girls.

The lack of affordable quality sanitary products for most girls and young women has become an increasingly detrimental health problem in third world countries including Tanzania. According to UNICEF, one out of ten young girls in these countries drop out of school due to limited access to appropriate hygiene resources to manage their menstrual cycle, while over 60% are missing school during their cycle.

Many girls suffer from reproduction system related illnesses due to lack of hygienic management of their menses.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

The objective of the campaign is to empower girls with a proper knowledge regarding menstruation so they will feel proud and know how to manage this.

This will increase school attendance and performance of a girl by ensuring facilities like sanitary napkins are available within school compounds at a cheaper price, to create a harmonious, supportive and positive thinking community which will understand menstrual hygiene management and the challenges that a girl is facing during menstruation.

The campaigns also sensitizes government leaders so that they can see the importance of installing proper toilets and water in schools, as one of the main reasons to ensure girls stay in schools even during their periods.

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

Hyasintha has managed to coordinate the celebration of International day of menstrual hygiene, which was done for the first time in her country Tanzania.

This celebration has raised required attention of government and hence she got invited to take part in the development planning process of the country by the presidents' office under the planning commission.

Hyasintha pioneered a Pamoja Tanzania program under the Hedhi Salama campaign, with volunteers from the Tanzanian medical students association to train both boys and girls in secondary schools on menstrual hygiene and puberty.

The program also provides girls with sanitary napkins within schools. The Pamoja program has given a wide knowledge to students about their body changes and even changed the perception of boys regarding the menstruation issues. Now boys in a number of schools where the Pamoja program is running have stopped laughing at girls or joking around when they see these girls with spotted skirts.

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

Hyasintha has innovated bamboo made sanitary napkins which solve menstrual complications like heavy bleeding and fungal infections for girls and women, Hyasintha has innovated an educational awareness program, which brings together the community to brainstorm together on the challenges that girls are facing during menstruation and hence let the community change their mindset of considering menstruation as girls/women issues but see it as a community issue.

Hyasintha wrote a booklet which explains why the community should intervene on menstruation issues and support women. This booklet that was written by her was requested to be brought to the refugees camps for educational purposes.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

The campaign will sensitize the community including government leaders on what girls/women need most during menstruation and hence improve water and sanitation facilities in schools, offices and hospitals, and will increase attendance and performance of school girls through the easy access of quality napkins within schools with a special price.

It will also increase knowledge of sex education, puberty and menstrual hygiene to our students and hence guarantee good parents in future who will not feel shy to talk to their kids about sex and changes in their bodies.

Women/girls will properly know the mechanics of menstruation and proper hygiene management so that they will be in charge of their own health. Medical students who are now volunteering to work with us, when they become doctors will have sympathy to treat and properly advice women when they come with menstrual complications.

Currently, in Tanzania doctors are advising women/girls to give birth to get cured.

CHALLENGES FACED

The society is still not accepting us to speak in public about menstrual hygiene management, though we keep reasoning with them and make them feel free to break the silence. On TV and radio, to date they still don't want to air our menstrual hygiene programs.

Funding also is still a challenge so we self fund the projects, most of the development partners they do not want to invest into this awareness program because of their cultural limitations.

Government leaders, especially men, are still barriers, several times they denied us permission to run a number of activities because they think we are copying western culture. We are still pushing on to make them understand us.

LESSONS LEARNT

We learn how vital the menstrual hygiene issue is; and how immensely it has been affecting women/girls who fear to speak out because of their cultural boundaries and hence ended up with serious problems like infertility.

Our research has shown it's not only school girls who are affected but even working/career women. We do also learn about unhygienic practices that women/girls are adopting because of ignorance, superstitions believes and taboos.

Men and boys know absolutely nothing about menstruation issues, girls who live with their fathers only or go to schools which have fewer female teachers suffered a lot.

We believe we still have a lot to do to address menstrual hygiene management and how deeply it affects the gender balance if we continue to ignore it.