By Jacan Jackson
Following Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s controversial remarks in the media about the government of Uganda’s promise to provide young girls in schools with sanitary pads, little is known about it. At times it is ignored yet it is one of the underlying reasons for girls school dropout and poor performance in Uganda. But this is significant to public health professionals, Education sector, young girls/women and the community at large
FACTS ABOUT MENSTRUAL HYGIENE
Menstrual hygiene is the normal flow of blood from the reproductive system of all women of childbearing age and it varies from 9 years of age or 13 depending on the genetic factors and nutritional status of a girl/woman.
Menstruation related side effects:
• Abdominal pain has been experienced in 3 in 10.
• Loss of appetite (anoxia).
• Dizziness has been observed & experienced in some women.
• General body weakness.
• Discomfort due to heavy flow in some women.
Danger signs associated with menstruation
• Heavy blood flow could lead to anemia.
• Prolonged and sharp abdominal pain could be a sign of bacterial infection.
Why menstrual hygiene?
This is because menstrual periods have significantly affected the economy due to the following reasons but it varies from women to women depending on economic status and genetical factors and environment such as:
• Loss of school contact hours due to discomfort caused by menstrual periods.
• Absenteeism from work for working women without the menstrual facilities management at work such as washrooms and incinerators.
• Financial gap to buy the sanitary pads, soaps, insufficient number of knickers, razorblades/shavers, deodorants among others.
• Lack of facilities for women to effectively manage the above such as changing rooms, washrooms, incinerators and storage facilities like buckets with covers at work places and schools.
• Proper hand hygiene by practicing handwashing during the five critical moments such as before serving food, after visiting latrine, after eating food, after body cleaning, after handling of used sanitary pads. For breast feeding mothers before feeding the baby.
• Proper and Hygienic utilization of WASH-Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Facilities such as changing rooms, washroom, drainage systems, refuse pits, buckets provided for temporary storage of used pads, incinerators and latrines.
• Attending menstrual Hygiene and management education and sensitization trainings and sessions organized by MOH, NGOs, Schools and parents.
• Joining and participating actively in WASH-sanitation clubs in schools for self-esteem and confidence building.
• Keeping in school with regular class attendance.
• Being friends to senior woman teacher and seeking
help where necessary
• Being open and sharing with mothers in our homes on how you feel and challenges experienced during menstrual periods
Roles of the Girl child in menstrual hygiene and management
Observing personal hygiene such as:
• Bathing three or more times during menstrual period to keep the body free from bad body odour.
• Keeping the pubic hair shaved and short.
• Changing knickers and washing them at all times
• Observing good oral health that is brushing of teeth after meals and in the morning hours
• Proper washing of the lower part of the body (vaginal hygiene)
Role of government in menstrual Hygiene
• Government should install Incinerators in schools
• Washrooms to be installed and constructed of approved design in accordance to Public health regulation/ACT.
• Government should at least distribute sanitary pads and other supporting kits to the schools through the senior women teacher if we are to promote girl child education.
• Government should enroll menstrual Hygiene education and sensitization for all women of childbearing age at least once every term through the District/s/county public health department and the senior women teachers as the contact persons for the project in various schools.
Parents Role in Menstrual Hygiene & management
• Parents to provide the young school going girls with sanitary pads and other kits in addition to other requirements if we are to achieve 50/50 by 2023 as per the theme for this year women’s day celebration.
• It should be a responsibility of every household to provide a home with a complete set of ideal homestead in regards to sanitary facilities such as latrines, bathing shelters, Girls rooms, refuse pit/bins and soap for washing.
• Parents should create a friendly interaction environment to the young girls so that they can talk freely on issues like menstruation without fear and how the girls feel by building confidence in the young girls.
• Understanding the young girl child periods for planning purpose especially by the mother.
Role of the school in menstrual Hygiene/Management
• It should be a requirement for the school to have sufficient numbers of Washroom stances for girls.
• Periodic Massive sensitization and education on menstrual hygiene and management by PUBLIC HEALTH experts and senior women teacher at least once a month or termly.
• Provision of sanitary kits for girls such as: soap, basins, temporary storage facilities for used sanitary pads, buckets, and emergency sanitary pads among others.
• Provision of changing rooms for menstrual cycles
• Provision of antibiotics and painkillers for girls in school during such time.
• Provision of paraffin and spirits for burning the used sanitary pads for incinerations (total combustion process)
• Formulation of WASH-sanitation clubs in schools to help boost self-esteem and confidence.
Role of PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICERS-WASH Experts
• Sanitary Health inspections of the WASH facilities on proper utilization by the girls in school such as incinerators, washrooms, changing rooms, drainages and sanitation; water supply trend, refuse storage and disposal among others to ensure they conform to minimum public Health standards (Public Health Act CAP 281).
• Periodic sensitization and education on menstrual Hygiene and management in liaison with the senior women teacher of respective schools.
• Advising schools on the suitable designs and standards of various different WASH Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities in schools to promote good sanitation and Hygiene practices.
• Conducting periodic sanitary risk assessment in school to ensure safety of girl child in school during the menstrual cycles.
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