By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
In commemoration of Menstrual Hygiene Day, one of the GSM providers in Sierra Leone, Orange SL, on Monday,May 30, brought together young school girls and educated them on how to manage menstruation.
Orange and its development partners, including Rainbo Initiative, Prevention First, 4HER, Community of Practice celebrated the day with the theme ‘Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’ and they also distributed reusable menstrual hygiene kits to over three hundred girls who attended the commemoration event.
Menstrual Hygiene Day is a global advocacy platform that brings together the voices and actions of various organisation and government agencies to promote good menstrual health for all women and girls.
The Day is commemorated on May 28th each year. 28 represent the average cycle and the fifth month being May represents the average number of days a girl/woman menstruates.
Priscilla Oke-Chuku, in her welcome statement at Orange Headquarters, IMATT, said the day was to celebrate women in all ramifications.
She said around the world, thousands of women, girls and people who menstruate live without access to the safe sanitary products they need. At least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management, noting that inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, particularly in public places, such as in schools, workplaces or health centers, can pose a major obstacle to women and girls.
She said the lack of separate toilets for privacy, or the unavailability of means to dispose used sanitary pads and water to wash hands, means that women and girls face challenges in maintaining their menstrual hygiene in a private, safe and dignified manner.
She said a growing body of evidence shows that girls inability to manage their menstrual hygiene in schools, results in school absenteeism, which in turn, has severe economic costs on their education, lives and on the country.
She said the challenge menstruating girls and women faces was often less tangible than simply the availability of infrastructure, and was rooted in social norms and beliefs and in many cultures, menstruating women are considered impure and are systematically excluded from participating in every-day activities, such as education, employment, and cultural and religious practices.
She said the taboos and stigmas attached to menstruation lead to an overall culture of silence around the topic, resulting in limited information on menstruation and menstrual hygiene.
“Orange Foundation with other various NGO’S such as Rainbo Initiative, 4HER, Girl Child Network, Mama Pikin and others have partnered together to raise awareness on menstrual health and menstrual health management.Collectively, we aim to challenge the stigma surrounding period poverty and advocating for availability and accessibility of menstrual products and resources,” she said.
She highlighted that their initiatives in this year would break the cultural taboos and end the discrimination surrounding menstruation, help ensure girls and boys receive proper education on puberty, including menstruation, help ensure that girls and women, including those living with disabilities, have safe and private spaces to manage menstruation at home, schools and public places.
Founder and Director of Prevention First Initiative, said menstrual hygiene is a fact, normal and its matters, noting that the May 28 celebration was first recognised in 2014 by WASH, a German non-governmental organisation, noting that the importance of the celebration is to make loud advocacy by organisations, government institutions to raise awareness about menstruation.
She said period poverty is when women and girls lack period kits and that stigma and shyness of girls about their menstrual period is also a major challenge to girls.
Founder of 4HER Initiative, Elizabeth Agatha Mousab said her organisation believes in women and girls and that is why they are doing working to improve them for a better world.
She said women and girls who are experiencing their menstrual are discriminated to the extent that they are considered unclean and they are not allowed to go the mosque or church.
Deputy Minister 2, of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, Emily Kadiatu Gogra said she was happy to be part of such event, especially so when the event has to do with the promotion women are girls, noting that the event also promote and compliment the free and quality education initiative.
She said many girls missed over 48 days out of school due to menstrual which is why engaging and educating girls on how to manage menstruation I’d very important because it will help keep them in school even during the time they were experiencing menstrual.
She said many schools are lacking WASH facilities and that as a ministry they are working hard to ensure that every school has such facility, she also called on organisations to help construct WASH facilities especially in schools in the provinces.