Since starting our Develop with Dignity program we’ve been on a learning journey on how challenging education can be for many school girls.
Menstruation has a global history of being viewed as an exclusively “women’s issue” and something that needs to be “hidden” from society. This belief system has often made it difficult to talk about periods openly and perpetuates many stigmas that can lead to girls being excluded from activities within their communities – such as attending a place of Worship or going to school.
From an extensive poll of students in Kumi, Uganda, our partners learnt few had been educated to expect their periods and many of them didn’t know why girls have periods. Our partners also recorded many of the myths believed locally which supported the view that menstruation isn’t normal and is shameful.
As part of this research, we came to understand that menstruation can only be addressed in the wider context of adolescent sexual health. The Kumi district has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Uganda. Many pupils said they were scared of the community’s perception if they approached a medical professional, or teacher, for advice on sexual health and over 50% believed contraception would harm them.
In response, Teams4U were awarded two grants from UK Aid Direct and the Wales and Africa Grant Scheme to help our partners challenge some of the misconceptions around menstrual and sexual health.
To date these grants have enabled our Ugandan team to support over 260 teachers, 109 nurses, 155 religious leaders and 180 representatives from local Parent Teacher Associations with resources, education and training on how to talk about menstruation, sexual health and contraception with their community/children.
Whats the impact?
Since the beginning of this project the team have spoken to over 400 pupils about attitudes and stigma around periods. Over half reported that they’d had a lesson on their menstrual and/or sexual health in school (in contrast to zero before this project started) and recorded a 48% shift in how pupils describe periods. Instead of labelling menstruation as a “curse from God” or “sickness”, they described it as “normal” and part of a girl’s healthy reproductive system.
Senior Pastor, Pentecostal Assemblies of God
“I have learnt that family planning is good knowledge to be passed to the church and menstruation is normal in girls, not [a] sickness”