On 28 May 2018, we celebrated the International Menstrual Hygiene Day in Musarara Secondary School, Chiweshe rural community (Mashonaland Central Province). It was a remarkable day where we joined the awareness day to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management.
The 28th was selected to acknowledge that 28 days is the average length of the menstrual cycle. The education by parents concerning reproductive health, sexuality and all related issues is considered almost everywhere as a “no-go” area. It appears that in much of Sub-Saharan Africa and mostly Zimbabwe, girls’ level of knowledge and understanding of puberty, menstruation and reproductive health are very low.
The taboo of menstruation helps to inflict indignity upon women and girls, but it also does worse: the grave lack of facilities and appropriate sanitary products can push menstruating girls out of school, temporarily and sometimes permanently. Stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to human dignity, the right to non-discrimination, equality, bodily integrity, health, privacy and the right to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment from abuse and violence. As Talia, our mandate for the day was to educate women and girls on safe use of sanitary wear and personal hygiene.
There was an open platform, for discussion on menstrual hygiene management, dispelling myths and promoting safe hygienic practices. Dialoguing was part of the training session and all ages were represented from primary level to full grown women. We also taught that menstruation is a natural process and women should be open to discuss more about it to our young girls and fellow women, and make men understand the need for women to receive proper care when it comes to accessibility for sanitary facilities at home, work and in schools.
Poor protection and inadequate washing facilities may increase susceptibility to infection, with the odour of menstrual blood putting girls at risk of being stigmatised. Emphasis was made particularly on issues of keeping clean and bathing regularly to keep ourselves clean always. At the end of the session, we distributed our Talia reusable pads, named Chayil Reusable Cloth pads, which are economic, hygienic, environmentally friendly, easy to use and to dispose.
A lecture on directions for using the pads was done by the Director Mrs Saliwe Mutetwa-Zakariya as she was wrapping up her training session for the day. Young girls and women were overwhelmingly happy to be part of the first team to receive these pads in Mashonaland Central. The need is real and requires everyone’s input in managing the struggle to accessing sanitary wear for girls and women. Period poverty is universal…Let’s join together and work towards their being. #NoMoreLimits for women and girls!