West Africa: Research on Menstrual Hygiene Management in Offing

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WaterSan Perspective
May 31, 2014

WaterAid’s West Africa office, in conjunction with WaterAid country programmes in Nigeria and the region, plan to conduct a research to help develop strong programmes on Menstrual Hygiene Management and reinforce our work for more impact, especially in schools.

The research, slated for this year, will also identify key actors for collaboration, capacity building needs for civil society and local government partners, and areas for advocacy.

On any given day, more than 800 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating. Yet menstruation remains a taboo subject.

A woman in Kanzilu village in Mutomo, Eastern Kenya cuts cassava stem
A woman in Kanzilu village in Mutomo, Eastern Kenya cuts cassava stem

UNESCO estimates one in 10 African girls miss school during their periods, leading to a higher dropout rate.

In many countries, menstruation is surrounded by a lot of myths including banishment from the family home to an outdoor shed during each cycle. These myths range from harmless to extreme and even though, in many cases, they date back to ancient times they continue to persist even now.

Clarisse Baghnyan, Coordinator of WaterAid’s Regional Learning Centre for Sanitation said:

“We need to make a shift in our thinking and attitude and bring an end to the stigma that still surrounds menstruation. For the sake of our girls and women, it’s time to start talking about this issue. The myths and taboos around periods can and do take a heavy toll on the health of our girls and women, especially in developing countries such as Nigeria. We must ensure that our girls have decent and separate toilet facilities in schools otherwise their health is put at risk and they are likely to miss or drop out of school rather than face the humiliation of finding somewhere private to change. By talking about periods, we can help normalise this natural process and help girls and women live healthier and more dignified lives.”

WaterAid works in more than a dozen countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to teach women and their families how to care for themselves properly during their periods.

School projects range from building private, gender-separate toilets and taps for washing to creating hygiene clubs where girls learn how to sew washable, reusable sanitary towels.

This four stance latrine belongs to a public school in Kashari Mbarara. Instead of toilet papers, pupils use leaves
This four stance latrine belongs to a public school in Kashari Mbarara. Instead of toilet papers, pupils use leaves

Last week on Wednesday, 28 May 2014, organisations including WaterAid, WASH United, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Save the Children, declared the first-ever Menstrual Hygiene Day.

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