Battling with Menstrual Taboos
Asiya lives in Afar, the northeastern region of Ethiopia. She is a grade 8 student. She comes from a community where traditions stigmatize menstruation. Before she started her periods, aged 15, Asiya had no understanding about menstruation and it was a shock to her when it first happened. She had no knowledge about menstrual hygiene or health because it was, and still is such a taboo in her community.
Things changed when Save the Children through its Comprehensive, Inclusive Learning and Development –School Feeding Project (CHILD-SFP) facilitated awareness raising sessions on MHM (menstrual hygiene management ) and initiated related girls empowerment activities in her school. During these sessions, the myths around menstruation were dispelled as both teachers and students took part in open discussions around menstruation and established that it is a normal and natural part of being a woman.
“ it is something that I can talk about with my family and don’t have to hide” Asiya said.
She’s now better able to ask for information, identify signs of menstruation and care for herself when she has her period. Asiya is one of the targeted 87, 750 preprimary and primary girl students in the 499 catchment schools benefiting from the 21 million dollar Save the Children led-school feeding project funded by the Global Partnership for Education(GPE). The (CHILD-SFP) is operational in five regions of the country covering 13 districts.
Asiya is now a “girls club” member which was established in her school recently. I can feel change within me after joining the club.
“The club is very useful for us. Now, I know well about menstrual hygiene and harmful practices. Before, I knew very little” she added
Asiya is reassured to know that menstruation is normal; learning about the menstrual cycle has helped her count the days and predict when her next period is likely to start.
“That way I can prepare materials ahead of time, which I think is important for girls to do.”
Fatima Hassan, 27, is a language teacher. She is also a focal person for gender and empowerment in the school. She is one of the participants of the training on girls empowerment and MHM, which was organized for selected teachers from the schools in Assaita district.
“ I got the opportunity to exchange knowledge and information with woreda experts, and learned about menstruation hygiene and other adolescent health-related issues” she said.
In addition to the MHM awareness raising and girls empowerment training, CHILD-SFP has supported the target schools to distribute dignity kits and underwear to girl students of menarche age and establish a dedicated MHM room equipped with necessary facilities. The room serves as a private changing and cleaning corner for girls during their periods.
Written by Abdusemed Mussa