Today is Menstrual Hygiene day and we join the rest of the world to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management. I believe now more than ever, we need to have the conversation on how period poverty continues to be a barricade to menstrual hygiene management in Uganda.
Statistics show that Globally, at least 500 million women and girls lack proper access to menstrual hygiene facilities. This is attributed to period poverty, stigma, harmful cultural beliefs among others.
The COVID 19 pandemic even further aggravates this already existing problem. Women and adolescent girls all over the world continue to menstruate monthly despite the existence of a pandemic and therefore need access to menstrual hygiene management tools.
Period poverty refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management.
From the definition alone and the current state of affairs in Uganda there is glaring evidence that many women and adolescent girls are victims of period poverty. This pushes them to practice poor menstrual hygiene management that exposes them to infections and makes menstruation even more burdensome. School going girls even miss school and others may drop out of school as a whole due to the already existent gender divides. A Meniscus report by the BioMedical Centre indicates that school absence in Uganda is at 28% during period-days, compared to 7% in non-period days. Since poverty is one of the drivers of child marriage, many may even resort to getting married to gain economic security.
Despite the countless commitment by stake holders to work towards improving menstrual hygiene management, little or nothing has been done. Ugandan women especially in rural areas have been depending on supply of menstrual products by NGO’s, charities and well wishers which may not be regular and inadequate. Others resort to use of old clothes, saw dust etc that may not be hygienic.
In 2015 President Museveni pledged to provide sanitary towels if voted back in power and yet 5 years later and this has not seen light of day. Recently The education minister Janet Museveni and first lady made it clear that there are no funds to fulfil this pledge. It’s only amusing that the same ministry of finance readily avails funds when members of parliament require allowances which makes it clear that menstrual hygiene management is simply not a priority.
Sanitary products in Uganda are still taxed which makes them inaccessible by the average Ugandan woman.
Beyond just access to sanitary products, the lack of period friendly toilets, clean water and good period waste management is still a big problem. More than 21 million people in Uganda still do not have clean water. Women and adolescent girls require water and soap in order to manage their period hygienically and decently. The lack thereof further predisposes them to infections.
It is also important to note that the effects of poor menstrual hygiene management are not limited to women and adolescent girls. They manifest in environmental degradation from poor waste management, reduced productivity of women in the world of work and may affect Uganda’s quest to attain SDGs.
It’s therefore important for stake holders to provide sanitary products to adolescent girls, increase funding towards good menstrual hygiene management and subsidize local production of the same. The government should also support NGOs and charities that have been doing the work instead of stiffling their efforts.
I shared a whole blog post earlier this month on measures I believe the government and stake holders can implement so as to improve menstrual hygiene management that you can read here.
All that said, happy menstrual hygiene day.
Also to let you know that earlier today I had a live session on period infections that you can watch on @mzuriliving instagram.
What do you think needs to be done to end period poverty in Uganda?
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