Today, May 28, is International Menstrual Hygiene Day (also known as Menstrual Health Day, MH Day, or simply MHD). This is an annual awareness day on which to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management with a view to generally benefiting women and girls worldwide.
Incidentally, the number 28 in the MHD date was deliberately initiated by the Germany-based NGO WASH United in 2014 to acknowledge that 28 days is the average length of the menstrual cycle.
Menstruation is a natural bodily function for the female of the human species. It is patently wrong to associate it with uncleanliness or negativity of any sort, be it rooted in religion, tradition or whatever. In that regard, girls and women should not be victims of social neglect or segregation/discrimination.
But menstruation-related segregation still dogs girls’ education, basically because effectively managing menstrual hygiene with dignity is still a challenge for most schoolgirls.
Statistics on menstrual health management from Tawasanet – a national network of civil society organisations working in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector – show that 15.9 per cent of girls in Tanzanian schools miss classes due to menstruation, in most cases missing between one and three school days a month, with 1.6 per cent missing a week’s classes.
A survey of Nairobi schools in next-door Kenya showed that 53 per cent of girls missed classes during their menstruation periods. While the impact of that on their education can only be surmised, it nonetheless calls for ways to surmount the menstruation challenges across the board.
Educating all and sundry on the challenges is the way forward. Tanzania and the world should seize the Menstrual Hygiene Day opportunity to extend sensitisation campaigns against stigmatising menstruation, and, instead, portray it as part of growing up sanctioned by nature.