During their lifetime, girls and women will spend over 3,000 days in their periods, yet menstruation is still enveloped in myths, misunderstandings and stigma. Too many girls have little or no knowledge of their periods, and that has a significant impact on their lives.
With all the physical and emotional changes, adolescence is under even the best of circumstances a rather stormy time in a young girl’s life. For many, it is an uncomfortable experience to get their first period. Besides sparing young girls an unsettling start to womanhood, menstrual education is critical to enabling them to manage their menstruation in a hygienic, confident and dignified manner. Girls need at least a basic understanding of the physical processes, advantages, and disadvantages of the various menstrual hygiene products available, to make informed decisions about managing their periods. Without this, insanitary products that can lead to infections of the reproductive tract and other medical conditions may be used by women and girls. Poor menstrual hygiene is a recognized major cause of infections of the reproductive tract.
Boys and men also need to understand how periods work since the Ugandan society is a patriarchal one. Only then can we break the different taboos and myths associated with it. To ensure that girls and women are empowered to sail through puberty and stay healthy and confident, education for both males and females is vital.
Girls need to also be able to practice good menstrual hygiene. This applies especially to the institution where they spend the greater part of the year: school. Schools must ensure that there are affordable menstrual hygiene products and that they have water, soap and safe disposal options for used menstrual products in their toilets/latrines. It has been reported that half of menstruating-age girls in Uganda miss up to 3 days of schooling each month. This makes menstruation an added disadvantage for girls who are already less likely to be sent to school than boys. Some have been reported to completely drop out of school once they begin to have their periods.
Ensuring that females get the education they deserve opens up social and economic benefits for them as well as for the country. Girls who stay in school earn more, get married later in life and have healthier kids.
In order to accelerate progress, our government should adopt a national standard for better infrastructure for menstrual hygiene management in schools and ensure integration of menstrual education into the school curriculum. Our government and other non-government organizations should increase funding for menstrual education and the facilities that are needed. We should provide every girl in every part of this country with the knowledge, products and facilities she needs to hygienically and in a stigma-free manner manage her menstruation.