No to stigma around menstruation

Following the commemoration of World Menstrual Hygiene Day recently, the K’Negongo Foundation has called for menstruation to be celebrated, understood and supported.

The foundation assists rural schools by donating sanitary pads, books, stationery and school uniforms, as well as contributing to feeding schemes.

Founder and director Paulina Kambonde said the foundation collaborated with the German embassy, Bannerman Mining Resources Namibia, the Environmental Investment Fund, Namibia Chamber of Environment and the British High Commission to donate sanitary pads to over 5 000 girls in 72 schools in the Kunene region last Friday.

“In Namibia, we are not yet at the stage of girls in schools receiving free sanitary pads which can sustain them for the whole year.

This means we need to work hard to provide safe facilities, clean and safe toilets with water and sanitation facilities in schools, workplaces and public places to ensure women and girls can manage their menstruation hygienically and with dignity.”

Health and social services deputy minister Esther Muinjangue, speaking during World Menstrual Hygiene Day at Rehoboth last week, said statistics show that many girls stay out of school while menstruating due to poor toilet facilities.

World Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated annually on 28 May. It was observed for the seventh time in Namibia and held under the theme: ‘Together, We Can Make Menstruation a Normal Fact of Life by 2030’.

Muinjangue said girls become stressed during menstruation due to inadequate facilities and a lack of sanitary products, causing some to opt to stay home.

“This day serves as a reminder to all stakeholders that all girls must be privileged with dignified, safe and private facilities.”

Muinjangue said a 2014 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene report by the Society for Family Health found that only 29% of schools have flush toilets; 28% of girls use toilet facilities that are not separated from those of boys; and 51% of schools make no provision for girls in relation to menstruation, such as a handwashing station with soap and water or a rubbish bin inside toilets for the safe disposal of pads.

Muinjangue noted that within some cultural groups in Namibia, menstruation remains a taboo, often associated with uncleanliness and shame. Within these cultural settings, women and girls are forced to be quiet during menstruation and parents do not feel comfortable sharing information with their growing children.

Muinjangue said poor Namibian women and girls don’t always have access to sanitary products and are forced to make use of unsanitary and ineffective materials which can introduce diseases and infections.

According to the World Health Organisation, adolescent girls continue to be uninformed and unprepared for menstruation, with feelings of exclusion and shame leading to misconceptions which can negatively impact self-confidence and personal development.

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