52% of the female population is of reproductive age and most menstruate every month. Menstruation is an integral and normal part of life yet so many women and girls have no access to clean and safe sanitary products, or to clean and private spaces to change. Millions of women and girls are subject to restrictions in their daily lives, expected to be invisible and silent simply because they are menstruating. The stigma surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, namely human dignity, the right to non-discrimination, equality, health, privacy and the right to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment (WSSCC, 2013), yet far too often women and girls struggle is ignored. Girls fear staining or smelling, suffer from health problems due to poor hygiene during menstruation and are denied the privacy they are entitled to without the necessary infrastructure for cleaning and washing. All of these factors are major reasons for girls’ being absent from school during menstruation, denying them their right to education.
There is still a huge lack of consideration for the menstrual needs of women and girls who continue to be routinely ignored by politicians, and by professionals in the water, health and education sectors. The stigma surrounding menstruation makes finding solutions in schools and communities challenging, but the first step is to break the silence and give women and girls the forums they need to speak out about the need for improved menstrual hygiene management.
At Childreach Tanzania, we integrate menstrual hygiene across our programmes, from building gender sensitive toilets, to tackling stigma in child clubs. Through our Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project FIT FOR SCHOOL, Childreach Tanzania work with children in primary schools by establishing hand washing facilities so as to make hand washing with soap a routine practice among pupils. In future we are planning to distribute sanitary towels, sanitary bins, information leaflets and establishing safe forums for girls aged 9-15 to ask questions, to be listened to and to influence key decision makers such as head teachers and district officials to consider girls’ menstrual hygiene needs. By removing barriers that keep girls from attending school and from being valued members of their communities, we stand with women and girls in the communities we work with to bring change.
Happy women’s day!!
How your money helps