WaterAid Working Towards Breaking the Silence on Menstruation

WaterAid West Africa Staff and Partners at the close of the Training on Menstrual Hygiene Management, held in Nigeria recently
WaterAid West Africa Staff and Partners at the close of the Training on Menstrual Hygiene Management, held in Nigeria recently

In a bid to strengthen the capacity of its staff and partners, and to provide essential information about its Menstrual Hygiene Program, the international charity, WaterAid has conducted a week-long Training on Menstrual Hygiene Management.

The exercise recently held in Nigeria is intended to ensure a robust training, awareness and advocacy on Menstrual Hygiene Management across West Africa.

In an interview with WASH R&E “Media” Network, the Policy Officer of WaterAid Liberia/Sierra Leone, Patience Zayzay said the training focused on experience and case studies sharing and information on evidence gathering for an effective menstrual hygiene management.

She indicated the training was part of WaterAid’s activities in line with the United Nations General Assembly conducted on 28th June 2010 with a resolution recognizing the issues of safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

Patience said her organization has been engaged into providing water, sanitation and hygiene services in Liberia with the vision to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to WASH services.

She further noted that WaterAid continues to make efforts in mainstreaming menstrual hygiene management in its work, indicating that the issue of menstruation over the years, has been considered as a taboo.

She said the issue could not be discussed in the public because of cultural issues, but stressed that menstruation is a biological process just like defecation or urination.

Miss Zayzay said maintaining hygiene during menses is vital for the well-being of women and girls, mobility and dignity.

According to her, the management of menstruation hygienically, is essential that women and girls have access to water and adequate sanitation.

She said the training also focused on studies sharing that were conducted by Mali, Nigeria, Niger and Ghana on menstrual hygiene management indicating that Liberia was unable to conduct such a study because of the Ebola crisis at the time.

The training, she said was also intended to show case studies and ensure what are the cross cutting issues in the various West African Countries on menstrual hygiene management.

Madam Zayzay said the training was also intended to ensuring how   WaterAid and partners can work towards amplifying the voices of women who face those problems on menstrual hygiene management.

She narrated that there are issues of menstrual hygiene management   in the health policy of Liberia and that they will advocate to ensure the implementation of that policy which has not been active.

Miss Zayzay described issues and knowledge on menstrual hygiene management as critical to the advocacy program.

She further disclosed a draft was formulated for a Regional Menstrual Hygiene Management Case Study Report which will soon be out to the public.

Menstruation is a natural process, but in most parts of the world, especially in Africa it is a taboo and rarely talked about.

It has also been largely neglected by the WASH sector and other sectors focusing on sexual and reproductive health, and education.

Globally, approximately 52% of the female population (26% of the total population) is of reproductive age.

As a result, the practical challenges of menstrual hygiene are made even more difficult by socio-cultural factors and millions of women and girls continue to be denied their rights to WASH, health, education, dignity and gender equity.

Women and girls are often excluded from decision making and management in development and emergency relief programmes.

At the household level, they generally have little control over whether they have access to a private latrine or money to spend on sanitary materials.

Even when gender inequalities are addressed, deeply embedded power relations and cultural taboos persist.

Most people, and men in particular, find menstrual hygiene a difficult subject to talk about.

As a result of these issues, water, sanitation and hygiene programmes often fail to address the needs of women and girls.

Young girls often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation because their mothers and other women shy away from discussing the issues with them.

Adult women may themselves not be aware of the biological facts or good hygienic practices, instead passing on cultural taboos and restrictions to be observed.

Men and boys typically know even less, but it is important for them to understand menstrual hygiene so they can support their wives, daughters, mothers, students, employees and peers.

Taboos surrounding menstruation exclude women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life as well as menstrual hygiene services.

Such taboos include not being able to touch animals, water points, or food that others will eat, and exclusion from religious rituals, the family home and sanitation facilities.

As a result, women and girls are often denied access to water and sanitation when they need it most.

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