HOW MENSTRUAL HYGIENE CAN BE BETTERED FOR YOUNG GIRLS IN UGANDA
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I have read that during our lifetime as girls, we spend over 3000 days in our periods, yet menstruation is still enveloped in myths, misunderstandings, and stigma. Too many girls have little or no knowledge of their periods, and that has a significant impact on their lives. Like my friend Martha (not real name), she did not notice when her first period came while in class last year until we, her friends noticed the blood. The good news was that we helped her and made sure no one else knew. I personally used the information got from my mother to comfort her and tell her all was well. Like Martha it is an uncomfortable experience for many girls to get their first period and this calls for menstrual education to enable them to manage their menstruation in a hygienic, confident, and dignified manner. As girls, we need at least a basic understanding of the physical processes, advantages, and disadvantages of the various menstrual hygiene products available, to make informed decisions about managing our periods. Without this, insanitary products that can lead to infections of the reproductive track maybe used. Poor menstrual hygiene is recognized as the major cause of infections of the reproductive track in girls. Boys and men also need to understand how periods work, to prevent cases of young girls being ashamed by boys or male teachers because of their periods which causes stigma. Only then can we break the different taboos and myths associated with it. To ensure that girls go through puberty and stay healthy and confident, education for both males and females is vital. Girls need to also be able to practice good menstrual hygiene. This applies especially to the institutions where they spend the greater part of the year (school). Schools must ensure that there are affordable menstrual hygiene products in their toilets. Schools should provide clean running water, soap, and sanitary towels. We also need readily available pain killers. It has been reported that half of menstruating age girls miss up to 3 days of schooling each month due to painful periods. This makes menstruation an added disadvantage for girls who are already less likely to be sent to school than boys yet it is a known fact that girls who stay in school earn more, get married later in life and have healthier kids. To accelerate progress, our government plays a big role. Our government should adopt a national standard for better menstrual hygiene management products and facilities in schools and ensure that menstrual education is added into the school curriculum. It should be taught to girls between the ages of 9 to 13 years. Our government and other non-governmental organizations should increase funding for menstrual education and facilities that are needed. Every girl in every part of the country should be provided with the knowledge, products, and facilities that she needs. As girls we should live in hygienically well and stigma free environments to manage our menstruation periods better. Thank you. Written by Stacy Achen.