Call for efforts to break menstrual hygiene taboos

Breaking the taboos surrounding menstrual hygiene among school girls will require the concerted efforts of all, including boys.

The call was made at an event to mark the menstrual hygiene day at College de L’Espoir de Gasogi in Ndera Sector, Gasabo District on Thursday.

Health Development Initiative (HDI), a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Kigali, organised the event, dubbed “A conversation about menstruation”.

The day-long event featured sessions of interactive activities on different topics regarding menstruation, and open male-female discussions about the subject.

Speaking at the event, Dr Jean de Dieu Gatete, the technical advisor on Research, Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health at HDI-Rwanda, said:

“The goal is to break the silence around menstruation and empower girls and women to manage their menstruation in a hygienic way –in privacy, safety, and with dignity”.

At the event, female students took turns to speak about some of the challenges that impede their quest for menstrual hygiene.

Poor quality toilets, lack of ready access to water, poor facilities for disposal of sanitary pads were cited as the major factors that force girls to skip school during their menstrual cycle.

Another problem cited was lack of accurate information regarding menstrual hygiene by boys, a fact that was blamed on insufficient reproductive and sexual health education both at home and in schools.

“Usually, the boys’ knowledge about this issue is laced with negative stereotypes which further reinforces the stigma,” Dr Gatete added.

Grace Uwase, a senior six student at College de L’Espoir de Gasogi, said the session was of immense importance to both boys and girls at the school.

“We had the opportunity to talk about how we can help a friend who is in her menstrual periods, especially those that are going through it for the first time. We were also taught other aspects like hygiene, and proper usage of sanitary pads among others,” she said.

Menstrual Hygiene Day evolved out of a 28 day social media campaign put up by WASH United in 2013. The campaign was designed to create awareness on menstruation and menstrual hygiene management as important considerations for water, sanitation and hygiene development initiatives.