Ekibadha: Our Periods Matter
Menstruation is a beneficial and natural monthly event for healthy adolescent girls and pre-menopausal adult women. As a vital determinant of human reproduction and parenthood, menstruation concerns both women and men. In low-income settings, the age of menarche tends to occur between the ages of 8 and 16, with a median age of 13. From these figures, it can be calculated that a woman in a low-income country will expect to menstruate for approximately 1400 days in her lifetime (Sumpter, C et al, 2013).
Regarding strategies to cope with menstruation, these are highly varied between and within countries and depend on an individual’s resources, economic status, cultural beliefs, local traditions, knowledge, education or personal preferences. Some of these factors can act as barriers which lead to unhygienic or inconvenient menstrual management, especially in low-income settings. Numerous studies have found the widespread use of unsanitary absorbents, as well as inadequate washing and drying of reused sanitary products across the Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia (Sumpter, C et al, 2013). Moreover, cleaning of clothes is often done without soap or with unclean water and drying is done indoors rather than in open air as a result of restrictions and taboos. These issues are particularly prevalent in rural areas and women and girls in lower socio-economic groups (Sumpter, C et al, 2013).
Certain social and cultural implications of menstruation affect women and girl’s lives on a global scale. For instance, in some cultures, girls are viewed as marriageable once they begin their menses and the sexual and “disgust” connotations liked to it make menstruation a taboo subject for girls to discuss (Sumpter, C et al, 2013). Social effects of ineffective menstrual hygiene management (MHM) can result in exclusion from everyday tasks (e.g touching water, cleaning, cooking, socialising, sleeping at home, attending religious ceremonies).
In a study looking at Ugandan schoolgirl’s MHM practices, it was found that 90.5% of girls did not meet available criteria for adequate MHM. Consequences of inadequate MHM included feelings of shame, not standing in class to answer questions and concerns about odour (Hennegan, J et al, 2016).
Ekibadha: Our Periods Matter was born by the realization that MENSTRUATION is still a taboo who effects the health of people who menstruate all around the world. Even though SOGH has been working for several years with women in rural communities of South-East Uganda, we did not have any information about how these women were handling their menstrual health. Which products do they use? How often do they change? And where? Do they use painkillers?
In order to understand the needs of these women and how to work with them to improve their menstrual health, SOGH decided to partner with Uganda Development and Health Associates, long time partner already on the Mama & Family Project, and ARCHIVE Global, an American NGO that uses strategic interventions to the built environment to improve health outcomes in vulnerable communities around the world. A pilot study was designed and recently run among the communities already involved in SOGH’s work with the purpose of gathering baseline data that could be used to design and implement a sustainable and community-based project to improve menstrual health for all the women and girls living in these communities.
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