Why improving girls MHM vital for her education performance

By Correspondent Daniel Semberya

Findings have shown that every month millions of women and girls around the world face the challenge of managing their menstrual period without clean, convenient, comfortable sanitary products.

In Tanzania, estimates suggest 85 percent of girls resort to unhygienic solutions, most commonly strips of cloth, which are difficult to keep clean and more likely to spread fungi and infection, or leak blood onto the user’s clothes.

The potential humiliation that results, plus inadequate water and sanitation facilities in schools, results in thousands of schoolgirls missing school due to menstruation.

Most girls both in rural and urban primary schools who have reached puberty do not use appropriate sanitary wear during their monthly menstrual.

Poor menstrual hygiene management (MHM) could contribute to poor performance and completion rates among girl pupils and exposed them to health risks.

The Tanzanian Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) has been tirelessly campaigning to further and galvanize support for MHM with parliamentarians, policymakers and other players.

Speaking over the weekend in Dar es Salaam on the importance of allocating resources to enable safe MHM for girls during TGNP’s virtual debate; Gender Budget Analyst from TGNP, Mr. Deogratius Temba said that his organization was working tirelessly to ensure the MHM issues become a policy and streamlined in the budget guidelines and financial laws so as to become sustainable.

Temba suggested that the district councils through their education or social development departments could allocate funds for MHM.

He commended Kisarawe, Kishapu, and Mbeya district councils for allocating and having the fund which is well managed under their social development departments.

Temba has stressed the importance of using the local industries to produce and ensure the availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of sanitary pads to meet the local demand.

He further suggested that the national budget supposed to clearly indicate the amount of money that has been allocated through the ministry of education in the form of a capitation grant so as to improve the environment and needs of safe MHM.

“District councils should continue allocating funds that would enable them to buy sanitary pads for girls in their respective areas.”

Temba has called upon the government to put an indicative price for sanitary pads to help a poor rural woman. “Men are equally responsible when it comes to women’s access to safe and affordable menstrual services,” he said.

For her part, Public Service provider in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms. Rabia Yusuf Esmail said that a policy for safe menstrual hygiene was in the final stage and once it is released and approved it will be streamlined in the primary school wash, starting from the Ward level as it was one of the crucial requirements.

However, she said that recently there have been many improvements in many schools. “There are many sanitary pads, enough flowing water in each room, where girls can secretly perform her privacy without disturbance,” she said.

Gender Activist at the grassroots level, from Ukenyenge Ward, Kishapu District in Shinyanga Region, Ms. Fredinan Said has called upon all stakeholders to join forces to raise a unified voice on menstruation to ensure girls were in a good environment.

“Let us change our mindset and take responsibility and make sure girls don’t miss their classes because menstrual hygiene,” she noted.

Ms. Suzan Lyimo (MP) suggested that the capitation grant should be also used to buy sanitary pads for girls.

“They should prepare a policy, which will later be enacted into a law that will particularly target the vulnerable girls coming from poor families.”

Dr. Immaculate Sware (MP) has urged stakeholders and other players to ensure all matters concerning MHM are implemented.

She said “when you abuse menstruation, you abuse a woman’s health who has a role of productivity and shape society. It is a necessary thing that should be seen with a broader eye.”

An independent consultant on gender and climate change, Dr. Lucy Sendi, has urged all stakeholders involving hygiene practitioners, boys and girls, humanitarian workers, government officials, and parliamentarians to ensure the education on safe menstrual hygiene is taught at all levels, from family level to the central government.

“Education at home is a crucial part of MHM improvement and contributes to a shift in societal behaviors,” she stressed.

She further emphasized that everyone, including government officials, sanitary pads suppliers, and family members especially men, should be involved in actions to break the silence on menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

“Let us break the silence and talk about safe menstrual hygiene to all levels by involving men in this agenda so that they can push and buy sanitary pads for their girls,” she noted.

TGNP’s Head of Programme in the department of Activism and Movement Building, Ms. Grace Kisetu said that collaboration was key to ensuring that menstruation is considered normal and managed with dignity.

WASH Advisor at Sanitation and Water Action, Ms. Wilhelmina Malima has urged TGNP to establish more knowledge centers as they have been pivotal in offering different education awareness on issues related to MHM, social, cultural, economic and political.

According to Ms. Malima “menstruation remains a secretive subject, abuse, fear and lack of knowledge contribute to girls’ school absence and cause frustration.”

Ms. Janeth John from Binti Makini Foundation said that, lack of menstrual and reproductive health education also resulted in the perpetuation of dangerous myths and taboos.

She has urged policymakers and decision-makers to take the importance of MHM on a serious note and ensure implemented in schools.

Speaking last year during Menstrual Hygiene day; Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu, promised to work jointly with other players to ensure  MHM goals for girls are achieved.

“Because our aim is to find solutions and address menstrual hygiene challenges that face women and girls in our country in getting access to safe water, and good MHM services including improved toilets in schools, availability of special room for girls for MH issues, special places for handwashing as well as menstrual product tools. Menstruation is unavoidable, it is natural,” she said.