Destigmatizing menstruation by 2030, one reusable pad at a time.

This year, we celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day with success stories of menstrual hygiene management in East Darfur

Khamisa Mohamed and Mohammed Abdulsalam Mohammed
reusable pads
UNICEF
26 May 2022

“I got my first period when I was 14 years old. I was so scared and did not tell anyone in my family about it. I was bleeding, but I didn’t know why,” recalls Zahra, now 15, who lives in Shariah locality in the East Darfur State of Sudan. “I called my best friend who told me to use an old rag to stop the blood. I felt bad and dirty, and I was itching.”

Zahra says that menstruation period is a terrible time for girls because it triggers feelings of shame and fear.  

Approximately 12 million people in Sudan do not have access to toilets. And many girls, like Zahra, struggle with managing their menstruation period, given the limited access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities.

Across the country, UNICEF works with local governments and civil society organizations to advocate the need for menstrual health and hygiene, and build toilets in schools. This helps menstruating persons manage their cycles in a dignified and healthy way and continue their schooling during menstruation. 

UmKheerah basic school
UNICEF
Girls are trained to make reusable sanitary pads at Umkheerah Basic School in March 2022

Producing reusable sanitary pads

Menstrual hygiene is still taboo in many rural communities in Sudan. To address this issue in East Darfur, UNICEF worked with the State Ministry of Health and local partners piloting a three-month intervention in three localities in the state, targeting students, teachers and women from the community. 

As part of this intervention, Zahra and her classmates in Um-Kheerah Basic School received information on menstrual hygiene and learned how to make reusable pads from locally available materials. Made from soft cloth, the pads can be washed with soap and water and used multiple times. They are affordable, comfortable, environmentally-friendly and easily accessible to girls and women. They are also long-lasting. The reusable sanitary pads are packaged as a kit. Each kit consists of two shields or pad holders, six pads (flannels), one bag, two soap bars and two underwear.

Mr. Hassan Hamad, the Executive Director of Shariah locality, was impressed with the outcome of the pilot. “Students and teachers were able to produce reusable sanitary pads. They were happy to gain new skills and learn information on menstruation management during the training."

Thanks to the reusable pads she produced, Zahra is no longer worried about getting her period.

 

reusable pads
UNICEF
Hayat Mohamed Adam (hygiene educator) receives reusable pads from MHM advocates Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Yassir.

Raising awareness of menstrual hygiene

In Muhajeria area in Yassin locality, UNICEF is working with partners to address urgent WASH needs for both refugee and host communities. Among host communities, UNICEF trained menstrual hygiene management (MHM) advocatess, including men.

Ahmed and Yassir, two MHM advocates, felt more comfortable discussing menstrual health issues with women following the training and now support in raising awareness of menstrual hygiene.

Like in Shariah locality, UNICEF held a reusable sanitary pads training targeting women from the South Sudanese refugee community in Muhajeria area.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is dedicated to awareness raising and destigmatizing menstrual hygiene taboos. At UNICEF, this work happens daily, with the goal of supporting menstruating persons achieve their full potential.

With generous funding from PRM and SIDA, UNICEF supported awareness raising on menstrual hygiene management for women and girls from vulnerable and marginalized communities in East Darfur from February to April 2022.