One of the goals in global development (The UN Millennium Development Goals) is access to and completion of primary and secondary school education for all children. A major obstacle for achieving this goal for young girls is menstruation management. UNICEF estimates that 1 in 10 girls on the African continent either miss days at school during menstruation and many drop out of school entirely because they do not have access to appropriate facilities to manage their menstruation.
When girls are not educated about menarche (the first period) and menstruation before it happens, they abide to a societal code of silence or ‘taboo.’ They feel alone and isolated in their management of their menstruation and do not seek help even from female teachers in school. Knowing about and maintaining proper menstrual hygiene is important for the girl’s overall wellbeing and growth. The girl must know that during menstruation, blood needs to be properly absorbed and subsequently disposed off appropriately. Also the girl must be aware of the various techniques and materials used for blood absorption.
Menstrual hygiene management can be fundamental in ensuring that the girl’s everyday routine is not interrupted by menstruation. It enables the girl to continue with her daily routine such as going to and staying in school, or doing household chores. Proper Menstrual Hygiene Management can help prevent potential situations of embarrassment which in turn, makes the girl feel confident about herself and her body.
It is difficult to envisage when and where the girl will experience her menstruation (especially the first – menarche). For girls, being in a position where they discover blood can be particularly baffling for the first time, especially when they are not adequately equipped. In this regard, having prior knowledge about menstruation and the ways of dealing with it can help the girl handle the situation better.
When the girl is properly equipped with the relevant ways of maintaining and managing menstrual hygiene, it enhances preparedness which prevents embarrassment and stress. One of the ways to support women and girls as a Country would be to reduce or end the import tax duty on hygiene products. We can also help by providing honest, age-appropriate and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to young girls and boys from as early as age nine would assist boys in empathizing with their female classmates and prepare young girls for this essential process in their bodies.
Girls who learn about menstruation before menarche have a more positive experience and association with their menstruation. Having knowledge of their bodies gives them a sense of agency, which is important to establish at a young age.
Then the age old call for building private and adequate hygiene facilities for girls in every public space would allow girls to access resources in society equally. Equipping schools with soap, sanitary pads and medication for pain during menstruation and training all staff to be allies for young girls during their adolescence among others. For us at J Initiative (JI) under our HAPPY SCHOOL GIRL PROJECT, we are excited to announce that we work with (though we use the disposable too) Affordable Sanitary Pad which is an environmentally friendly option for disposable pads called Afro pads.
Re-usable pads and menstrual cups are sustainable, cost-effective and safe alternatives, as long as girls have access to soap, clean water and a safe place to dry the reusable pads. Reusable menstrual pads must be washed well with soap and clean water and are best dried in a high heat drier or in the sun (the sun is a great sanitizer!).
They can be reused for up to a year, or more with excellent care. As the world celebrates World Menstrual Hygiene Day today, we wish to call for an open discussion around menstruation in order to remove the taboo against periods.
For the fact sheet on Menstruation and other related issues contact J Initiative (JI) on email: [email protected]/ [email protected] +233 303 962 200 / +233 242 305 656, add or follow our discussions on Twitter via #menstrualmattersghana #copghana #TheLogicOfLiteracy