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The 2018 International Menstrual Hygiene Day commemoration in Uganda started off with a one-day symposium in Kampala, during which actors were advised to take the MHM message to girls and women outside the school context.

In the build up to the 2018 MH Day, the Ministry of Education and Sports organized a one-day National symposium on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Uganda.

During the opening of the symposium, the Minister of State for Higher Education John Chrysostom Muyingo reiterated the message that Menstrual Hygiene Management is a key factor in the performance of girls in school. "We acknowledge that menstruation is one of the issues that affect our performance in education and determine whether or not our children stay in school," he said. "Many times we release national examination results and people ask why our performance is not to a certain standard. MHM is one of the issues," Muyingo added.

Sylvia Akello, Member of Parliament for Otuke District, speaking on behalf of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for WASH (UPF WASH), noted that for girls to compete favourably in school, there must be free menstrual hygiene materials like pads. Referring to President Museveni's campaign promise to provide free pads, Akello said, "Until the President retracts his statement in public, the girls are still waiting for free sanitary pads."

Akello further noted that MHM is not just about girls as it impacts on various other aspects of life. "If you practice menstrual hygiene management, it will be reflected in other aspects of personal hygiene. Everything around you, in you and within you will be hygienic and then you'll stave off all the diseases related to personal hygiene," she said.

Take menstrual hygiene management advocacy beyond schools

A key appeal coming from the symposium was to take the MHM advocacy beyond schools. Participants observed that girls and women outside the school context should also be sensitised about key menstrual hygiene issues. They were particularly concerned about girls who drop out of school and women with disabilities. "Menstruation does not stop in school. We must take it to communities. It is responsible for gender based violence," Honorable Akello said.

Key among the outputs of the symposium was a draft MHM research agenda. Facilitated by the East Africa MHM Research Network, participants set priorities for MHM research in Uganda, with a view to move from situational analysis to impactful implementation; avoid duplication; and support national level strategic actions for MHM. Ten thematic research areas were prioritized including:
1. Environmental infrastructure
2. Products
3. MHM in schools
4. Education, Information and Awareness
5. Delivery Channels and Programming
6. Impact of MHM on Health
7. Normative/ behavioral change on MHM
8. MHM in Humanitarian Contexts
9. Underserved populations and other research areas
10. Research strategies and translation to policy and action