Menstrual Hygiene Management still a hidden cry to girls in public schools

For 25 years TGNP Mtandao has been advocating for gender equality and social justice in every social economic aspect, that connects to equal rights, treatment and opportunities. This includes accessibility to social services such as water, health, education and agriculture.

To complement that, in 2015, Tanzania’s new government took a crucial step to advance the education sector: it abolished all school fees and “contributions” additional fees charged by schools to pay for the schools’ running costs previously required to enter lower-secondary schools in the country. According to the government, secondary school enrollment has significantly increased as a result.

That being said, for TGNP appreciates the fact that both girls and boys will experience a friendly environment to excel and engage fully in their academic journey. Yet, equity and quality pose major challenges.

Focusing on the issue of menstrual hygiene management in public schools which is one of TGNP’s key priority issue in the education sector, this has become a problem in public schools, whereby girls don’t access facilities and infustructures during their monthly periods.

According to various community surveys done, girls abscond classes for 3 to 5 days due to poor facilities and infustructures, including running water, sanitary pads, disposals, toilets and even female teachers to engage in this issue.

Speaking on the subject, TGNP Mtandao Executive Director, Lilian Liundi explains on how this tragedy affects the Industrialized agenda which is a strategy towards the growth of Tanzania’s economy.

“If we look at the Sustainable Development Goals SDG’s indicator of “leave no one behind” still girls are left out not participating entirely in their academic preparations, this means they won’t be able to excel and contribute on the agenda by 2025. Knowing that women take 51 % of the entire population, yet face setbacks to their economic contribution, this agenda will be totally slowed down, she explains.

On this demand, TGNP Mtandao advocates for free provision of sanitary pads and access to Menstrual Hygiene Management facilities in public schools. For this to be fully implemented the government should allocate sufficient budget to carter the facilities, removal of taxes on sanitary pads and breaking the silence of the problem since menstruation is everybody’s issue not only girls.

We would like to congratulate some of the councils in Tanzania like Kishapu in Shinyanga Region and Kisarawe in pwani Region for allocating budget for free provision of sanitary pads in schools within the districts.

In this regard TGNP Mtandao organized a MHM learning and experience sharing event called the SAFE SPACE that invited public school girls to speak out experiences around menstrual hygiene management in their academic world.

The gathering proved that, Menstrual days have been a living nightmare to young girls in public schools leading them to miss school due to lack of access to sanitary pads, water, the embarrassments, or the pain and discomforts. For TGNP Mtandao menstruation is  “among reasons that girls miss out from school.

Most girls got a free space expressing challenges faced during their menstrual days, the biggest problem is that, they are forced to stay at home due to unfriendly infrastructures at school, embarrassments and failure to afford sanitary pads.

Another major issue raised is that Menstruation is something not be heard or seen in public. Saida Said a form 2 student at Mabibo secondary shared her experience; “I was told by my parents if anyone gets to see my used pads or menstrual blood I will be attacked by evil spirits” she explains.

Also Sheila Mohammed from Makumbusho secondary school said, “I was told if dispose my used menstrual pad openly my father will die”.

This proves that Menstrual Hygiene is not just about the management of the menstrual period but also the need to address societal beliefs and taboos surrounding the issue.

Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices vary within societies and depend on the individual’s socioeconomic status, personal preferences, local traditions and beliefs, and access to water and sanitation resources

Such testimonies prove that the issue of menstruation is surrounded by Taboos and false norms and sometimes can be used as a push factor to other gender based violence. In some societies as Agness Lukanga a community activist shared her experience that “In my village girls used to be forced to under FGM believing that it will ease their pains during their periods” says Agness.

From the event, the girls managed to learn and share from others and all together promised to share the knowledge gained with their fellow girls at school and home. Most of all demanding gender responsive budgets from the family level, for the community can take it as part of household expenses.

It is clear that adolescent girls are often remarkably motivated to go to school. In some areas they sometimes walk up to 10 km each way in rural areas, go without any meal all day, and suffers sexual and physical abuse. It is no surprise that most girls figure out a way to manage their periods by staying at home.

That is, we don’t just want more girls sitting in school. We want girls who have access to clean and safe menstrual health, who are learning, and, critically, who believe in their own dignity and have the tools to maintain it.