The media fraternity in Ghana’s Northern Regional capital, Tamale, played a major role in WUZDA’s observation of the World Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) which falls on 28th May, each year.
The initiative of the Menstrual Hygiene Day brought about by German NGO WASH United, has not received the attention of world leaders according to some NGOs and sections of the public with interest in WASH.
Some of them say this is so because the day is not one of those by the United Nations, hence the low patronage and interest.
It is however a fact, that even though there is no specific goal focusing on Menstrual Hygiene in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it matters to some of them as established in a fact document on menstrual hygiene put together by WASH United in Germany and Simavi in the Netherlands.
The Sustainable Development Goals that give some level of consideration to menstrual hygiene as an area of development are goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12.
Goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Goal 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.
Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Goal 6 – Ensure availability and sustainability of water and sanitation by all.
Goal 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Goal 12 – Ensure Sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The WASH United in Germany as an NGO that has a lot of interest in hygiene among adolescent girls and women, started this initiative to get the world to talk extensively about menstrual hygiene everyday and in particular, on the 28th of May.
The first commemoration was done in 2014 in Germany where many global partners were rallied around the problem, to pledge support for the day. Since then, the day has received the support of over 270 global partners who are committed to making good menstrual health and hygiene a priority worldwide.
WUZDA’s INTEREST IN MENSTRUAL HYGIENE
As part of the programmes the Wuni Zaligu Development Association (WUZDA) runs as a nongovernmental organization, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene are at the core making the organization’s interest in personal hygiene very high.
It is without doubt that menstruation among adolescents and women has been relegated to the background for reasons of taboos and misconceptions among others.
Many people see menstruation to be unhygienic because of the thought that it is waste from a woman’s system that comes in the form of blood. For this reason, some men would rather cook on their own if they can, or buy food outside for the family than let a menstruating woman cook the home meal simply because she might not be ‘clean’ at that point.
For some rural individual households, the girl child is not allowed to do any household work when she is in her menstrual period, for the same reasons.
The part which is a big worry to stakeholders and advocates for quality education is that amongst the activities affected by the girl’s menstruation, is her schooling.
Most girls in rural and periurban communities absent from school during their period for the reasons already mentioned.
Other reasons have to do with the inadequate or lack of sanitary infrastructure and support products in schools such as toilets and urinal where they can change when they start or have abnormal flows during school hours.
WUZDA considers these issues to be for lack of political will, ignorance and sheer negligence on the part of duty bearers and parents of these children respectively.
The organization identifying this as a major gap, has therefore been facilitating in partnership with School Health Education Programmes, in complementing the works of the Ghana Education Service through district assemblies, in terms of providing capacity to school health teachers on how to communicate menstrual hygiene information and education to the girl child.
It also builds the capacity of school authorities on how to effectively demand facilities their schools lack from the government, through advocacy.
For minor rehabilitations to some of the infrastructure, WUZDA sometimes carries the burden of ensuring WASH infrastructure are in good shape and will help promote menstrual hygiene and general sanitation in the school. WUZDA also sometimes provides hand washing facilities and waste bins to schools to ensure that after changing, menstruating girls will have a place to dispose of the waste and wash their hands.
The unavailability of sanitary products as part of first aid in schools is also one area WUZDA has focus on, to advocate for them to be provided by the GES.
WUZDA believes the provision of quality basic education as enshrined in the 1992 constitution of Ghana, is the responsibility of the government of the day therefore, there is the need for MMDAs to provide a comfortable environment for effective learning by pupils and students.
With regards to adolescent girls in basic schools who might have their education affected just because they menstruate at a monthly cycle, authorities have to ensure this is curtailed with the provision of sanitary facilities and products in schools to aid them manage their menstruation in school without having to go back home or even absent themselves from school during this period.
Sanitary infrastructure such as toilets and urinals, must be provided and separated for male and female students to ensure privacy for both, especially the female, during times of menstruation so that they can freely and confidently change.
Other sanitary products like pads, clean water and soap should also be made available. A bin is important for final disposal of any waste to be generated from this and many other activities which may be embarked upon in the school.
The GES and the various MMDAs have the mandate to facilitate in providing parents with basic education on Menstrual Hygiene Management so that they can pass it on to children at the ages even before they approach their menstruation period.
This will help the girl child have enough information on menstruation and will not see it as a surprise as many girls especially in the rural areas do.
It will also help the menstruating adolescent girl or woman, to know what material to use or not during the period.
As Civil Society and Nongovernmental Organizations have taken upon themselves the role of complementing the work of state authorities, we will urge us to continue with the good work in facilitation to provide volunteering refresher workshops for school health teachers to always have hand on information and to access new ways of dealing with menstrual hygiene management education.
The media undoubtedly have done well in providing platforms for education on issues of social development to be churned out to the people of Ghana.
It has also done well for being the conduit through which information on matters affecting national and community development are sent to the public.
The media is however encouraged to do more in providing more platforms for discussion on issues concerning menstrual hygiene management. This, we believe will help demystify the many misapprehensions people have towards menstruation among adolescent girls and women.
Programme Manager for WUZDA, Mr. Ziblim Abdul Karim thanks all media houses that gave exceptional focus to WUZDA’s press statement to commemorate the 2016 World Menstrual Hygiene Day and urges them to make menstrual hygiene an everyday issue in their programming and reportage.
KEY MESSAGES FOR 2016 MHD OBSERVATION
“Every day can be a good day if girls can attend school during their period”. “Menstruation matters to everyone everywhere”. “Menstruation matters”.