Break the Silence and Stigma on Menstruation

10 Jul, 2020 - 00:07 0 Views
Break the Silence and Stigma on Menstruation Pupils show off reusable pads

B-Metro

Hazel Marimbiza
Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is an essential aspect of hygiene for women and adolescent girls between menarche and menopause.

Despite being an important issue concerning women and girls in the menstruating age group MHM has often been overlooked in our society.

During (MHM) it is important for women and adolescent girls to use clean menstrual management materials to absorb or collect blood.

These materials should be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period. It is also essential to use soap and water for washing the body as required, and to have access to facilities to dispose used menstrual management materials.

However, women and girls, mostly in low income settings have low awareness on hygienic practices and lack appropriate materials for (MHM) practices. Menstruation is often surrounded by silence, shame and social taboos. These often result in mobility restrictions and lack of access to normal activities.

Many women and girls know first-hand how menstrual cycles can be traumatic if one does not have decent sanitary wear, but they just won’t talk about it publicly.

However, Saliwe Mutetwa-Zakariya, 41, director at Talia Women’s Network is one of the few women who is unashamed to share her experiences.

“I was 13 years old and had visited relatives for the Christmas holiday and along came the period. It was so hard to tell anyone about it. That experience contributed to my resolve and life commitment to fight period poverty and break the silence and stigma on menstruation,” said Zakariya.

Talia Women’s Network donates CHAYIL Reusable Cloth Pads to disadvantaged girls and women. Women across the nation of Zimbabwe have benefited — Harare, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Hwange, Chipinge, and Chimanimani.

“CHAYIL Reusable Cloth Pads are a safe and hygienic menstrual hygiene product that delivers value and restores dignity to disadvantaged women and girls. Unlike disposable sanitary pads and tampons, the reusable pads provide an affordable, economic and cost effective alternative, which can be re-used for up to 18 months with proper care. The pads are hygienic, super absorbent and there is no irritation experienced when using the pads,” said Zakariya.

Zakariya and her husband have been in the menstrual hygiene space since 2012. Just like everyone — life has presented them their share of struggles but this has not deterred them from their resolve to fight stigma on menstruation.

“My husband and I formed the organisation after having gone through a very tough phase in our lives. We were unemployed and had no income. It was from a place of prayer and deep anguish that we made a vow to God, that whatever blessings came our way, we would use them to bless others as well.

“Our approach has evolved over the years as we seek more sustainable solutions to tackling the issue of periods, empowering the women and girls to avoid dependency. With time, we have also been exposed to the various issues around menstrual health and hygiene, such as water and sanitation issues and so we strengthen ourselves and deliver more value to the women and girls we serve,” said Zakariya.

The materials used as absorbents during menstruation, may vary from cloths torn from dresses of women, cotton fabric, to commercially available disposable sanitary pads. Practical, sustainable and culturally acceptable methods are recommended for addressing the menstrual hygiene needs of women.

Research states that unacceptable methods used during menstruation are associated with negative clinical and psychosocial outcomes including reproductive and urinary tract infections, anaemia, school absenteeism, and social isolation.

It is further indicated by research that adolescent girls tend to be less prepared for MHM and suffer from anxiety, apprehensions, fear and shame during their periods. Further, there is limited access to reproductive health services. In emergencies, the usual lifestyles of affected individuals change and they are confronted with additional stress that could worsen their physical and psychological well-being.

“Two of the major reasons why girls miss school are lack of appropriate menstrual hygiene products and dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Our pads have benefited the schoolgirls by providing them with a safe, hygienic and environmentally friendly solution to help them manage their monthly periods. Girls resort to using rags, tissue paper and other unhygienic materials when they do not have access to pads. With the CHAYIL Reusable Cloth Pads, girls don’t have to worry much and these can be used for up to 18 months with proper care,” said Zakariya.

In a bid to tackle period problems, Talia Women’s Network has come up with ways to alleviate the stress girls or women may face during this time.

“In addition to providing the pads, we also have a Menstrual Health & Hygiene curriculum, which talks about many things related to periods such as breaking the myths and taboos and more importantly how to identify and deal with irregular periods and period pain. So I would like to believe that our intervention has made girls love their periods and given them more knowledge and understanding on the subject of menstrual health, in addition to supplying the products. Culturally, we don’t talk openly about menstruation and periods, so we create a platform for open discussion and sharing for the girls.

“Our goal is to eradicate period poverty and supply pads to vulnerable women and girls. So where there is a need, resources permitting – you will find us there. We were active in Chipinge and Chimanimani in response to the Cyclone Idai last year. We work with private sector partners such as Stanbic Bank, Mimosa Mining Company, MMCZ and OK Zimbabwe and sometimes they also help us identify vulnerable women and girls according to their CSR priorities. We donate to schools and we have also been to churches and prisons,” said Zakariya.

She pointed out that their major challenge had been resources. They need more in order to reach out to more vulnerable women and girls.

They also need support from government, policymakers, and the private sector.

“Everyone should realise that menstrual health and period poverty is not ‘their’ issue, it’s ‘OUR’ issue and everyone has a role to play in bringing about sustainable change,” said Zakariya.

Talia Women’s Network measures their success in terms of lives being transformed. Zakariya highlighted that when they see transformation in the communities, no girls missing school because of periods, women looking out for other women and girls, men and community leaders being actively engaged in menstruation conversations and contributing to the empowerment initiatives, then they know that they have been successful.

“We have made tremendous progress but there is so much more work and combined effort that is required,” said Zakariya.

On their future plans, the goal is to ensure they end period poverty.

It is further indicated by research that adolescent girls tend to be less prepared for MHM and suffer from anxiety, apprehensions, fear and shame during their periods. Further, there is limited access to reproductive health services. In emergencies, the usual lifestyles of affected individuals change and they are confronted with additional stress that could worsen their physical and psychological well-being.

“Two of the major reasons why girls miss school are lack of appropriate menstrual hygiene products and dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Our pads have benefited the schoolgirls by providing them with a safe, hygienic and environmentally friendly solution to help them manage their monthly periods. Girls resort to using rags, tissue paper and other unhygienic materials when they do not have access to pads. With the CHAYIL Reusable Cloth Pads, girls don’t have to worry much and these can be used for up to 18 months with proper care,” said Zakariya.

In a bid to tackle period problems, Talia Women’s Network has come up with ways to alleviate the stress girls or women may face during this time.

“In addition to providing the pads, we also have a Menstrual Health & Hygiene curriculum, which talks about many things related to periods such as breaking the myths and taboos and more importantly how to identify and deal with irregular periods and period pain. So I would like to believe that our intervention has made girls love their periods and given them more knowledge and understanding on the subject of menstrual health, in addition to supplying the products. Culturally, we don’t talk openly about menstruation and periods, so we create a platform for open discussion and sharing for the girls.

“Our goal is to eradicate period poverty and supply pads to vulnerable women and girls. So where there is a need, resources permitting — you will find us there. We were active in Chipinge and Chimanimani in response to the Cyclone Idai last year. We work with private sector partners such as Stanbic Bank, Mimosa Mining Company, MMCZ and OK Zimbabwe and sometimes they also help us identify vulnerable women and girls according to their CSR priorities. We donate to schools and we have also been to churches and prisons,” said Zakariya.

She pointed out that their major challenge had been resources. They need more in order to reach out to more vulnerable women and girls.

They also need support from Government, policymakers, and the private sector.

“Everyone should realise that menstrual health and period poverty is not ‘their’ issue, it’s ‘OUR’ issue and everyone has a role to play in bringing about sustainable change,” said Zakariya.

Talia Women’s Network measures their success in terms of lives being transformed. Zakariya highlighted that when they see transformation in the communities, no girls missing school because of periods, women looking out for other women and girls, men and community leaders being actively engaged in menstruation conversations and contributing to the empowerment initiatives, then they know that they have been successful.

“We have made tremendous progress but there is so much more work and combined effort that is required,” said Zakariya.

On their future plans, the goal is to ensure they end period poverty.

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