By Hazel Chenaimoyo Zaranyika
Across the world, there are a lot of taboos and rituals surrounding menstruation especially in Africa and women’s health is often put at risk because of myths, restrictions and ignorance surrounding the issue. Many women and girls are usually cut off socially during this time.
Many women and girls are also unable to get hold of sanitary pads and struggle to dispose them hygienically due to period stigma and period shame.
Many girls often miss school because they are bullied for getting periods, pain or because they cannot afford sanitary wear as it is very expensive. Overtime, this impacts their education and very often after years of struggling without adequate sanitary wear, menstruation can push young girls to drop out of school.
In response to this reality, YESS Girls who are Girl Guides, have launched a campaign entitled ‘Yes! Girls Can be Proud of and Manage their periods’ in eight African countries, namely Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda . The campaign is aimed at giving girls the confidence to be proud of their periods and not ashamed.
#My period my pride: The YESS Girls in Kenya proudly show off sanitary towels during the campaign.
"A woman was created by God to have periods as a way of continuing humanity. So ladies should be proud of them; and not ashamed of them. Men and boys should on the other hand also be supportive of the women when they have periods because it is a normal thing to happen," says Robina Asiimwe Sentumbwe, Global Programmes Manager of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
As part of the campaign in the eight countries, the YESS Girls have started hygiene clubs in schools where girls learn about their menstrual health and how to make their own safe, reusable sanitary towels. The YESS Girls programme aims to boost the self- esteem and body confidence in young girls by fighting against period stigma in schools and at home. This is because we believe that women and girls have the right to manage menstruation safely and with pride. We are the girls and together we believe that ‘yes the African girls can’ bring a positive change in Africa by making every girl proud of her menstrual period.
Also, as part of this campaign, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in partnership with UNICEF has this month (May) also set up a U-Report Poll on periods where girls and women are encouraged speak out on the barriers that they face in different countries when they have their periods. U-Report is a social messaging tool which allows anyone from any community, anywhere in the world to respond to polls, report issues, and work as positive agents of change.
The climax of ‘the YES Girls Can Manage and be proud of their periods’, campaign will be on the May 28, when the world will be celebrating the International Menstrual Hygiene Day with the aim of breaking the taboos associated with periods and raising awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for women and adolescent girls worldwide.
The writer is a YESS participant from Zimbabwe currently on a six months visit in Uganda under the YESS Girls Movement International Exchange Programme of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in partnership with FK Norway, a Norwegian Government Agency. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is one of the six largest youth organisations in the world.