UPRISING MEN ON PERIODS
Girls and women are calling on us to stand with them. To join our voices with theirs, to amplify a rallying call to protect their present and future. It is not only about girls but inclusivity in matters of MHM Boys and men have an equal stake in breaking the silence, myths and taboos on menstruation. Our silence, mostly perpetrated by myths, misconceptions and taboos which costs us the bright future that we deserve, a future enjoyed by both males
PROBLEMS FACING MHM.
Myths, Taboos and Misconceptions about MHM
Menstrual flows are seen as dirty, polluting, and shameful, so women hide menstrual cloths for fear of being cursed,
these are the Local understandings of menstruation they even go to an extend of associating the menstrual fluids with black magic therefore discouraging ladies from disposing the used materials in public bin and school bins for fear of being bewitched and fertility loss. Education given to girls in seclusion gives a broad picture of the understanding of MHM in the community, ladies are even restricted from cooking as it is believed they are dirty and adding salt to the food while cooking causes chronic coughing to those who eat the food. Some communities also believe that solution to the painful cramps is to get pregnant and some say that doing sex for the very first time one will not get pregnant while some say that after giving birth the painful cramps will disappear forever which later increases the no of early pregnancies. Most of the girls are also told that using the materials provide in hospitals and shops causes cancer and they are advised not to use the materials All this taboos and stigmas attached to menstruation leads to an overall culture of silence around the topic, resulting to limited information on MHM.
Lack of knowledge on MHM
While the school curriculum covers menstruation as part of health science subjects, the majority of the girls do not know its physiological basis. Both teachers and girls lack structure teaching on MHM.
Most girls lack access to absorbent menstrual materials which is a challenge to managing their menses. Girls commonly use pieces of cloth which might not be fit for use.
Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in school, community and at home.
Majority of schools are seen to have access to tap water but few have the water connected to the toilets for easy access by the girls therefore posing a great threat to their hygiene. Apart from accessibility to water most of the toilets lack privacy where the girls can maintain their hygiene pushing them to over stay with the sanitary towel for longer periods. Some public toilets and those at home do not also provide adequate and comfortable room for the girls.
MEN UNDERSTANDING ON MHM
Most men do not know about the normal physiology of menstruation, such as the menstrual cycle and the hygienic
measures that should be taken during menstruation, even though they are often responsible for decision-making regarding health facilities and services needed by women and girls. Most men feel like it is not in order to share information on MHM with ladies therefore MHM is treated as a “girl thing” and many would go around saying “mambo ya wasichana usiyaingilie” this blocks majority of the men out ranging from parents to even the male students at school. Ladies also find it uncomfortable to share such information with the males and most girls could prefer sharing it with their girl mates and their mothers.
Role of men in MHM
Men and boys can support women in different domains during menstruation starting from the household, community, workplace etc. Therefore, addressing strategic issues regarding menstruation should aim both at men and women, to bring about significant changes in their attitudes and behaviour towards menstruation. They can advocate menstrual hygiene management (MHM) best practices and spread awareness, as well as offer psychosocial support by understanding and appreciating vulnerabilities brought about by hormonal imbalance during menstruation. Men can give infrastructure and financial support through making sure women and girls have access to safe spaces that provide privacy and security to enable them to change menstrual products; ensure adequate water and soap to wash their bodies; and support women and girls in purchasing and aiding in making menstrual products.
Lastly, as researchers and entrepreneurs, they can be part of environmentally friendly innovations on safe and hygienic disposal of used products.
Men and boys have an active role to play in this empowerment. They can be ambassadors or change makers who challenge the status quo of myths, misconceptions, taboos and cultural beliefs that promote shame, fear, indignity and discomfort for women and girls during menstruation.
LET’S RESPOND TO THE CALL
Written by : Splinter Buluku (Kilifi, Kenya)