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Breaking the silence around menstrual hygiene management

Published on: 12/08/2014

On 14 and 15 August, Uganda will host the first Menstrual Hygiene Management Conference in East Africa. IRC Uganda is one of the organisations leading the conference preparations and sees the conference as an opportunity to share evidence and jointly formulate solutions. 

By Lydia Mirembe and Marielle Snel

This week, Uganda will host the first Menstrual Hygiene Management Conference in East Africa, which will which will be attended by more than 100 people from Africa and beyond. Over 15 organizations are involved in organising the conference, including Non-Government Organisations, Government of Uganda ministries as well as the Parliament of Uganda. IRC Uganda is one of the organisations leading the conference preparations.

This is an exciting opportunity to come together and discuss how to move the issue of menstrual hygiene management further. The specific role of IRC Uganda is to help make policymakers understand what they need to consider in menstrual hygiene management (MHM). In other words, we want to help to develop further consciousness around MHM, especially through the assistance of the national government who can help to ensure that MHM policies are put in place that will help girls at school, in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

There are lots of taboos around menstruation and it is a neglected subject. We are treating the conference as a means of "breaking the silence". We are striving to create a positive twist in which we take the issues around MHM and help to come up with constructive solutions for communities and schools, with support from actors at district up to national level.

In 2012 and 2013, IRC and SNV Uganda carried out a study on the impact of menstrual hygiene on girls in school in Uganda. The study covered 140 SNV- supported primary schools in seven districts (Arua, Adjumai, Budibugyo, Kasese, Kyenjojo, Lira, and Sorti). The results of this study were used in Uganda to provide evidence-based advocacy on the role of girls from the ages of 13-18 (upper primary school) in menstrual hygiene management, who have started menstruating, and on the issues and challenges that they face at school.

The study provides insights into current situation and coping practices and suggests that MHM menstrual hygiene management, which requires consisting of adequate improvements in hardware (toilets, changing rooms, washing facilities and pads for emergency use), as well as software (awareness raising and psychological support) is an important means of keeping girls in primary school. The study provides clear recommendations for schools as well as policy makers.

The main objective of this study was to focus on:

  1. the impact of menstrual management on girls in school;
  2. the analysis of the role of primary schools in menstrual management;
  3. on possible ways forward around menstrual management that could be implemented from national to primary school level.

This MHM conference will also give us the opportunity to reflect on the results of this study, but more importantly to relate it to the question how national government can further stimulate taking MHM a step further into a movement that helps girls complete school and reach their full potential.

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