In case you didn’t know that May 28 is celebrated as Menstrual Hygiene day globally. This day was set because May is the 5th month of the year, and women’s menstruation period lasts for an average of 5 days. The 28th was chosen because the average of menstrual cycle is 28 days. Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) raises and combats taboos associated with Menstrual hygiene with the goal of enabling women and girls to achieve their full potential. Globally, more than half of women are currently of reproductive age and menstruation is a monthly reality. Yet all around the world, many women lack access to menstrual hygiene products or sanitation facilities, either due to limited availability or excessive cost.
Myths and stigmas surrounding menstruation cause some women and girls to miss school or work or go into isolation.
To my understanding I believe this is so because we don’t really talk about it openly. I remember when I first started my menstruation I was just 12 years old and in my final year at primary school.
I didn’t like the fact that I started at that age and I remember praying to God to asking him if I can I start 2 years later but it did not happen. Luckily enough, my mother told me what to expect and we also learnt about it at school. I had friends who never knew anything about menstruation, especially when it came to taking care of themselves. As a result, they ended up messing themselves and the boys in class would mock them. Unfortunately, this is still happening to our young girls in the present day.
Most of these girls are afraid to go to school when they are on their cycle because they don’t want to get embarrassed if their friends, especially boys, find out their situation. Others miss school because they don’t have the necessities they need during menstruation.
It sounds like a joke but this is very true, in many rural areas in Malawi you will find girls not going to school when it is time because they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads, which are sold at K550. I have heard people say that,why can’t they can’t just use the traditional way of using a cloth? when in reality it is very easy. I was shocked this other time, when I was talking to a girl in Mchinji; as part of a survey that sought to find out about absence of girls in schools. This girl told me she had one cloth which she uses but she cannot go to school because she needs to change during break time. To avoid that she needs to stay home to take care of herself and resume for school after the four days. When I asked why can’t she have two clothes to enable her to change at school; she said it was impossible told me because she cannot afford one. She said her mother doesn’t have a proper chitenje to wear and the cloth she has was shared by her cousin.
When I heard her story it got me thinking that she might not be the only girl in Malawi suffering on menstrual hygiene.
I know that somewhere, another girl is still suffering with the same problem. What am trying to say is; this is real and it is happening. However, I am glad that I have seen some organizations and different stakeholders on the forefront when it comes to menstrual hygiene management.
One of the stakeholders is Glam and Glory international. Glam and Glory has established a beauty pageant as platform to look for girls between the ages of 18-28. The girls contest and the winner is crowned as an ambassador for Menstrual hygiene in their district. They have been to Northern, and Central region so far, and they have been distributing reusable sanitary pads for free to 50 girls, who cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. To all the girls who have made it to top 3, they are taught how to make reusable sanitary pads; so that they can teach girls in their communities how to make the reusable sanitary pads.
Imagine if every girl in Malawi, especially in rural areas, knew how to make a reusable sanitary pad on their own. I think it might be a very good idea because we are going to have girls not missing school because of this reason.
Therefore I say big up to some organizations like; UNITED PURPOSE and UNICEF under WASH PROJECT. Special mention should also go to GOAL MALAWI, WORLD VISION just to mention a few, for taking part in distributing free sanitary pads and also for spreading the news on menstrual hygiene.
Students receiving donated sanitary pads from World Vision. Photos by Wezi Nungu World Vision.
I believe one day every young girl will get a message that this is not an embarrassing situation in her life. To me this is what really makes me feel like a woman, it has something very special that happens to only women. If we embrace it, we are going to reach higher heights and it won’t be a setback anymore.
I also believe that women and men of all ages must be aware of the importance of menstrual hygiene. There must be an open dialogue and education at home and in schools to foster engagement with this often unspoken issue. I believe we can achieve that together we no shame, no limit in order to bring awareness about good Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and the role it plays in empowering women and adolescent girls worldwide to become all they can be: IT’S REALLY TIME FORACTION.