The Kumi district of Uganda is a rural and impoverished area with the highest reported teenage pregnancy rate in Uganda and a high drop-out rate from school.
Through our Develop with Dignity project, which regularly supplies around 1,500 schoolgirls with washable sanitary pads each year, we got to know these young women and learnt more about their struggles. Few are prepared for the changes their body goes through during puberty or are taught about their periods. The majority have no idea what a period is until after their first experience of one. Even then half of those we asked could not explain to us why women have periods. A few of the girls told us they believed their periods were a curse or punishment from God, or that a period came when their body was unhappy with them.
One of the issues is there is very little education being given regularly to the girls who mostly rely on their mothers to tell them, but often their mothers don’t know either. It can appear shameful to talk about menstrual and sexual reproductive health, leaving many young women at risk and fearful at what is happening to their bodies.
This project, funded with UK aid from the UK government, is helping challenge the stigma and misconceptions around Menstrual and Sexual Reproductive Health through working closely with the community, including nurses and teachers, to create a more supportive environment for the developing schoolgirl.
We will be visiting Uganda at least 4 times from 2018-2020 to run training seminars for 240 teachers in the district, in addition to leading discussions and community focus groups with district nurses, religious leaders and parents. Our aim is to equip the teachers to implement their Government’s first ever Sex Education Framework into their curriculum whilst working with other community leaders to challenge myths believed about menstrual and reproductive health.