Menstruation is a process that every woman must go through, making it a relatively normal topic of discussion in the U.S. However, this is not the case in developing areas, including Africa. Due to a lack of education, proper hygiene and sanitation practices, menstrual health in Africa struggles to improve. Fortunately, several organizations are working to improve the conditions of menstrual hygiene management.
Menstrual Health in Africa
Menstrual hygiene management, also known as MHM, encompasses puberty education and awareness, MHM product solutions (such as pads or tampons) and sanitation. These things, combined with the community and its influencers, shape young girls’ journeys through puberty.
Kenya, for example, offers the following statistics on menstrual health:
- 50 percent of girls openly discuss menstruation at home.
- 32 percent of rural schools have a private place for girls to change their menstrual product.
- 12 percent of girls feel comfortable discussing menstruation with their mothers.
- Two out of three pad users received them from sexual partners.
- One in four girls does not associate menstruation with pregnancy.
From these facts, it is clear that there is a disconnect between the awareness of menstrual health and the tools these girls are provided with to deal with menstruation. Menstruation health enablers include education and awareness, access to products, access to sanitation and policy. These four categories determine how certain areas or countries prioritize menstrual health.
In Africa, one of the largest reasons girls miss school is because of menstruation. When young girls don’t have access to sanitary pads, they often choose to miss school or leave early. Many organizations are working to help mend this disconnect.
Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT)
SAT works to improve universal systems for sexual and reproductive health and rights for women in eastern and southern Africa. It does this by pushing for gender equality, community ownership and the agency and aspiration of young girls. For the last twenty years, SAT has worked with local communities, helping to strengthen them enough to improve their response to the HIV epidemic and improve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Its approach helps:
- Identify its communities better by identifying access to equitable and inclusive health systems.
- Understand how to invest for impact by identifying low-cost, high-impact solutions.
- Know how to mobilize for change by mobilizing stakeholders.
- Learn, monitor and evaluate by promoting a continuous learning process.
Femme International believes in empowering women through education by breaking global, menstrual taboos. It also attacks gender disparity by addressing menstrual health and hygienic concerns. It believes that a lack of knowledge is the reason behind the circulation of menstrual myths that continue to shame women globally.
Its most recent success has been with the Twaweza Program, which translates to “we can” in Swahili, that is working in Kenya and Tanzania. The program is taking an education-based approach to tackle menstrual health in Africa.
The program contains the following educational aims and objectives:
- Increasing the knowledge of feminine health and hygiene, which is done through interactive activities and discussions and providing accurate answers to people’s questions.
- Reducing the rate of girls missing school, which is done through boosting girls’ confidence and providing students with its Femme kits.
- Breaking down reproductive taboos, which is done through debunking myths, creating a comfortable conversational environment and opening up conversations with men about women’s health.
Globally, some cultures have developed negative mindsets about menstrual health. With the help of the above organizations and the distribution of proper resources, menstrual health in Africa will continue to improve.
– Chylene Babb