A report by the Guardian wrote about the methods that girls and women manage their periods, which include banana leaves, cow dung, animal skin, cotton, quilts, or self-made tampons for the poor children in sub-Saharan Africa (The Guardian, 2019). “Period poverty” is a lack of access to sanitation products during menstruation; lack of access to infrastructure (such as toilets, clean water, soap) and health care services (counselling, examination); or lack of the knowledge and skills needed to properly manage menstrual health. Or there exist barriers, social stereotypes affecting women’s right to health care during menstruation.
In Uganda, “omwezi” or “ensoga” is the word used for “menstruation” – “omwezi” means “moon”, and “ensoga” means “the problem people don’t talk about”. Mom does not talk to daughter, father does not talk to boys, friends do not share with each other, teachers do not guide students. That creates silence or taboo around the subject. Interviewing a girl, she said “I was cast a spell by the village witch doctor” when she had her first period. Talking to a boy, he said: “Ohm, the girls eat clay or run under the sun when they are in periods”. Many girls are absent from schools in their red days, affecting their performance. Many have to engage in transactional sex to afford sanitary products. Others suffer from infections from using unhygienic products.
Established in 2012, WoMena (Wo for women as women’s issues, Me for men as the importance of male involvement, and Mena for Goodness of menstruation) was created with the vision of promoting sexual and productive health rights for the most underserved girls and women in the low-resource settings. Having partnered with various organisations such as Save the Children, UNFPA, UNHCR, Buikwe District Offices, the US Embassy, and so on, the organisation is creating a gradual change in the community on awareness on menstrual health management, building capacity for teachers and health staff, and making an impact of period experiences of millions of girls and women.
A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped cup that collects menstrual fluids that are used by girls and women in their periods. Unlike tampon and other types of sanitary products (such as disposable pads), a menstrual cup is safe, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly. In low-resource environments such as refugee settlements where soap and clean water are sacred, the menstrual cup becomes a powerful tool for girls and women to manage their periods without worrying leaking, finances on buying sanitary products or any inconveniences in working or moving. Partnered with UNHCR, WoMena expands its project on Menstrual health management to the Congolese refugee in two settlements in the West of Uganda.
Joining WoMena as Project Manager then Acting Executive Director, I am humbled to contribute my efforts in promoting sexual and productive health rights and asserting women rights on basic education and services for girls and women in Uganda and East African countries. Read more of our work at https://womena.dk/