World Menstrual Hygiene Day is a worldwide celebration which falls on 28th May each year. This celebration was introduced by a German based NGO called WASH United in 2014. The essence of this celebration is to break the silence around periods, tackle the stigma associated with and raise awareness about the issues faced by those who don’t have access to sanitary products. The vision is to build a world where no one is held back because of menstruation by 2030.
Menstruation is simply the monthly flow of blood and during this time millions of adolescent girls around the globe face a miserable cycle pain, anxiety, discomfort, shame and isolation.
In Ghana, most girls are unable to have access to sanitary product because of financial difficult and most often resort to using alternative materials or products which comes with its own challenges. Some girls even engage in sexual relationships in order to cater for their needs such as sanitary products. Some of these girls get pregnant along the line. This situation continues to increase teenage pregnancy in Ghana. It subsequently leads to school dropout hence these girls are unable to achieve their full potentials to contribute to national development.
The absent of appropriate hygienic conditions such as waste disposal mechanism, water, soaps,
washrooms and toilet facilities in our schools increases the fear of the adolescent girl hence missing one week instructional hours every month. This is because they fear the risks of being exposed with the ridicule and shame associated with when they soil themselves because they are unable to change. Also, the wearing of one pad for longer hours have some health implication on these girls.
Also, menstruation in some parts of the world including Ghana is still considered as a taboo. Women and girls are not allow to go to certain places (worship centers), touch certain things and are even forbidden to cook or come out of their rooms during their time of menstruation. All these practices lead to stigmatization against girls and women which affect their mental stability. These taboos are sometimes associated with supervision which puts limitations and fear in girls and women. This challenge or issue is very delicate because these taboos and superstition are a cultural tradition. Hence, talking about it means fighting the way of life of a people. This because, these beliefs are seen as part of their lives and therefore it cannot be taken away from them. However, it should be noted that a lot of progress has been made over the pass decades and I hold the belief that with time we will get there.
Again, menstruation is considered sacred in some parts of the country and therefore there is zero discussion on menstruation. Parents in such situation do not hold discussion on menstruation with their daughters. As such, these girls first menstruation (menarche) takes them by surprise or unawares which makes them emotionally and psychologically unstable which does not promote teaching and learning. This lack of education from the parents and teachers continues to deepen owes of the young girl. Some girls do not even no how to maintain themselves and how to seek help. Some also do not understand what it means to menstruate and end up getting pregnant.
The effects of these challenges or issues on girls and women in general is that, they risk missing instructional hours and educational opportunities hence they are unable to achieve their full potentials. This continues to widen the gap between boys and girls in terms of contributing to development. This is why we all should make a conscious effort to make menstruation a normal or regular thing. One thing we should note is that it is a collective responsibility or effort to help normalize menstruation in the world.
Therefore, adolescent girls and women need the support of the government, NGOs, individuals, community leaders, health professionals, teachers and the media to help break the silence surrounding menstruation.
The cost of sanitary products in Ghana makes it a privilege to access and not a right therefore the government needs to make allowances for girls to access affordable sanitary products by subsiding
the cost of sanitary product so every girl child whether poor or rich will be able to purchase. And also provide adequate infrastructure in our schools for girls to manage their periods, in the distribution of the infrastructure gender equity must be applied. This will be helpful tackling the various needs of the adolescent girl. The government cannot do this alone therefore, NGOs and individuals can support or compliment the government to make this a reality.
Media houses have a great role to play in breaking the silence around menstruation. They should carry out educative program on the challenges and issues girls and women face daily because of menstruation.
Also, community leaders, health workers and teachers can help eradicate menstrual stigma in our community through education. Parents and family members need to be educated about their cultural traditions and superstition which might unintentional be causing harm to women and girls. Boys and girls must be educated about menstruation and reproductive health to empower them to talk about periods and sexual health. Menstruation is not a disease nor a curse but rather a sign of good health and womanhood therefore there is nothing to be ashamed of.
To commemorate this year world hygiene menstrual day, the Inspire to Impact Outreach spearheaded by Miss Mary Gyamfuaa-Abrefa in collaboration with the Girl Child Unit of Ghana Education Service, Effutu Muncipal organized a health talk on Menstrual Hygiene and also donated sanitary products to E. M. A. Zion ‘D’ Basic School in Winneba. The aim was to create awareness about menstrual stereotyping, issues girls face because they unable to access sanitary product, menstrual hygiene and to empower girls to speak up.
Let’s all of us help in creating a world where no one is held back because they menstruate.
This piece was put together by Miss Mary Gyamfuaa-Abrefa who is an activist, a tutor, content developer and the founder of the Inspire to Impact Outreach, a nongovernmental organization which seeks inspire young people (the vulnerable) to achieve their full potentials to contribute to societal and national development. The outreach also advocates for peace and as such organizes peace programs for young people.
She holds a Master of Philosophy in Conflict, Human Rights and Peace Studies from University of
Education, Winneba. She is a professional trained in the area of Conflict, Human Rights, Peace Studies and Social Studies. She has extensive knowledge in the field of Social Studies, Human Rights, Conflict and Peace Studies and has worked as a research and teaching assistance at the Centre for Conflict, Human Rights and Peace Studies. She has also assisted lecturers with projects experiments and conferences. She worked as a researcher with Akyeampong and Associates, a research consultancy and also with the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) as a researcher and advocacy person.