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Let us break the silence about menstruation

Published on: 07/06/2017

Half of all school girls lack information on menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Raising awareness about a basic fact of humanity is the point of World Menstrual Hygiene Management day. 

An awareness raising event in Addis Ababa on 30 May 2017 brought together government, donors, NGOs and school representatives. This was organised by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and UNICEF with the support of WaterAid, World Vision, Care and Splash. Dr. Hassen Mohammed, representative of the Ministry of Health and Advisor to the State Minister, emphasised how Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) increases the productivity of girls.Menstruation leads to absence from school by girls when there are no proper sanitation facilities (IRC have produced a short film from South Omo on this topic). 

Jane Bevan, UNICEF Rural WASH Manager highlighted what UNICEF is doing to improve a situation where:

  • Over half of the girls in Ethiopia have never received any information about menstrual hygiene, and less than a quarter get it from their mothers.
  • Most girls say there is no water availability at school toilets.
  • More than a third of girls say they do not change their pads at school but wait until they reach their homes.
  • One in ten girls miss school because of menstruation.

Jane finally said, "Let us fight stigma and shame on MHM". Doing just that, girls and boys told their stories at the event. One boy from a school in North Shewa Zone of Oromia  said, "MHM is not the issue of girls only boys need to understand it too." The girls mentioned their experiences when they first saw menstruation and what people say when they see blood on their cloths which was very touching. Some say a girl was raped and some think that menstruation is the readiness for marriage. They also explained the absence of MHM facilities and the dirtiness of the toilets in their schools. The girls tried to educate the public and the school community saying, "Menstruation is a natural phenomenon and if there is no menstruation the human generation cannot continue, but people do not realise this truth."   

Some of the answers on what to do can be found in a new guideline endorsed by the MoH and launched at the event. The guideline is not actually available yet but it is expected to be distributed by the Ministry of Health in July 2017. A concluding panel discussion reflected on insufficient action in the past and led to a call to scale up efforts to improve MHM.