KAMPALA – The Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum, (UYAHF) has called upon the general public and different stakeholders to break the stigma and invest in menstrual health as a way of helping the girl child stay in school.
This comes at a time when the body has taken a headstrong effort to amplify solutions to some of these problems for women and girls in rural areas.
Under the #menstruationwithdignity campaign, UYAHF distributed menstrual health materials to over 200 refugee girls in Kyaka II refugee settlement.
The campaign aimed to raise awareness, give a platform for everyone to contribute what they can, and ultimately to acquire menstruation and hygiene management products such as knockers, soap, water tanks, and sanitary pads.
#MenstruationWithDiginity continues to break the stigma against menstruation and to ensure that no girl is left behind. It has also reached out to over 3000 adolescent girls and boys in primary and secondary schools raising awareness on menstrual health and breaking the menstrual stigma.
According to Mr Patrick Mwesigye the team leader UYAHF, the campaign is also implemented with other campaigns like ‘Books before Babies’ which are targeting adolescent girls, boys, and teachers on prevention of teenage pregnancies and child marriages through keeping girls in schools.
“UYAHF is also running a 24/7 helpline dubbed the Ssubi helpline where girls can call in and get correct information and referral on Menstrual Health Management (MHM). As we joined the world to commemorate the MHM day on 28th May 2021, under the international theme of ‘Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health’, UYAHF would like to reaffirm our position to continue to support young women and girls from far and hard to reach areas with all the support they need to experience their menstruation with dignity.”
Mr Mwesigye explains that the crucially of menstrual hygiene management cannot and must not be tied down to just one internationally celebrated day. He shares that this is why it is pertinent that people continue to advocate for continuous investment and action in menstrual hygiene management while ensuring that no one is left behind.
Menstrual hygiene management is in many ways, a human rights issue. Menstrual hygiene is central to the dignity of women and girls and an important part of the basic hygiene, sanitation, and reproductive health services to which every woman and girl has a right.
An estimated 1.8 billion girls, women, and gender non-binary persons menstruate, yet millions of menstruators across the world cannot manage their monthly cycle in a dignified, healthy way
“In spite of the ubiquity of this experience, menstruation is still being treated as taboo in many cultures in the world. In Uganda, many girls are victims of social stigma when they experience menstruation and are often called dirty or impure during the days when they are menstruating,” he shares.
Mwesigye adds that the high costs of menstrual health management materials like pads hinder most girls from rural areas from easily accessing these materials.
This has played a big role in the high school drop-out rates in most of rural Uganda. In rural areas of Uganda, girls have been known to miss up to 24 days a year because of their menstruation.
On average, there are 220 learning days in a year and missing 24 days a year translates into 11% of the time a girl pupil will miss learning due to menstrual periods; this greatly affects her overall education and will ultimately lead to the girl having to drop out of school due to poor grades.
Some cultures view menstruation as a sign of maturity for most girls. Those who menstruate are then forced to get married off while they are still children.
“With the onset of COVID-19, grave impacts on girls and women’s menstrual health have become exacerbated. The socio-economic effects of COVID-19 led to high poverty rates which in turn meant that most girls in rural areas would not be able to afford pads during their menstruation. Additionally, access to clean water and safe and hygienic spaces was stifled during the lockdown.”