28 May is Menstrual Hygiene Day. Dorcas Tanzania is raising awareness about menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and is building up MHM capacity in a marginalised community in Handeni. MHM is not just vital for the empowerment and well-being of girls and women. It is also a basic requirement for their personal hygiene, reproductive health, dignity and prosperity. The MHM4her campaign is stimulating a behavioural change in School, WASH, MHM and gender equality among school caretakers, girls, boys and other villagers to create a supportive learning environment for schoolgirls.
Impact Story: No more bruises or bloodstains during her period
Agness Bavae is a fourteen-year-old Maasai girl living in Misima village. She is in the second year at Misima secondary school, and each day it takes her 40 minutes to walk there. In Maasai culture, girls and women are separated from the rest of the family for their entire menstrual period and do not engage in any economic or other activities during this time. Agness used to miss 4 to 7 days of school every month due to a lack of proper sanitary materials, which contributed to a decrease in her academic performance. She was using pieces of cloth as sanitary materials. These are very rough, easily saturated, formed bloodstains on her skirt and caused bruises as she walked to school. Knowledge about, attitude towards and implementation of MHH were low. There was no adequate clean water and changing rooms in the toilets for menstruating girls to clean themselves hygienically and privately. As a girl, she did not feel comfortable and confident to appear in any gathering during her period. In pastoralist communities, it is hard to get proper information about menstrual hygiene and to get proper disposable sanitary materials because these are not usually available in rural areas or are too expensive. Therefore women and girls use traditionally accepted local materials like pieces of used cloth or animal skins because these are the only solutions available.
“I feel more confident during my period because I use proper sanitary materials that are comfortable, and the school/learning environment has a safe room for changing with clean water. I am no longer ashamed to talk about menstruation with boys and teachers in school’, says Agness.
Menstrual Hygiene Management for her (MHM4her) introduces reusable sanitary pads through a cost-effective, innovative supply chain with funding to help local entrepreneurs dispense the materials. The project has reached some 80,000 people with knowledge about menstrual health and hygiene. The outcome mapping approach has demonstrated the effectiveness of MHM4her on influencing behavioural change among schoolgirls and parents. The project has created a good and conducive learning environment for schoolgirls, especially during their periods, by raising MHM awareness among teachers, boys, and girls through health clubs. Water tanks and demo latrines with a changing room for girls and a urinal for boys have been built. MHM4her trained the community health workers, teachers and role model girls as ToT. Agness and other female students now have renewed hope of a better society and education. Now Agness never needs to miss school again for menstruation-related reasons.
‘I am not ashamed to discuss menstrual issues with parents. I can also purchase reusable pads at the nearby kiosk, so I have no more stains on my skirt and no more school absence’, says Agness.