“Menstruation is normal, it shouldn’t stop you from playing and learning”
Rose Akong, Senior Woman Teacher
What was it like when you first had your menstrual period? Rose Akong, the Senior Woman Teacher from Morulem Girls Primary School, Abim District, asks school club members during their Tuesday session. The discussions today will focus on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), a critical component of adolescent development.
Menstrual hygiene management is one of the biggest challenges in the Karamoja sub-region, where Morulem is located, contributing highly to an increase in school drop outs among girls.
Sitting under a large tree in the school compound, girls aged between 13 and 17 years, share their experiences. Among them is Deborah Mercy Acheng, 13 years in Primary seven.
“At nine years, while attending a church service, I stood up to sing, and the girl behind told me my skirt was soiled. I was very scared, I thought something had hurt me, so I decided to run home, to bathe, while crying. I changed clothes, but they too got soiled in a few minutes. I bathed again, and this time soiled the chair. Very confused since I had never heard of menstruation, I decided to talk to my mother, who comforted me before telling me I had started my menstruation period.”
The girls’ testimonies open the discussions on the topic of the day - MHM. Using simplified booklets, Akong provides information on menstruation before stressing the benefits of proper hygiene during menstruation – washing and disposal of pads.
Akong who passionately delivers the sessions with examples and animated demonstrations is a beneficiary of trainings on menstrual hygiene management supported by UNICEF with funding from Irish Aid.
“Menstruation is normal, it shouldn’t stop you from doing anything including playing,”
The girls listen attentively and ask questions.
Before the introduction of this activity in 2016, many girls like Aceng were uninformed about menstruation. Many missed school, stayed home for days while others thought a period meant they were old enough to get married, all in line with community perceptions. But this has since changed. The girls at Morulem now know that menstruation is part of growing up and have embraced this. Through the trainings, they have gained important life skills, show high self-esteem and are able to freely participate in various school activities. No wonder they are invited to participate on radio talk shows, community engagements, debates, go back to school campaigns where they encourage girls who have dropped out of school due to menstruation challenges to return to school.
The latter part of the session focuses on making reusable pads. The girls look on as Akong makes cut outs from cloth and are later tasked to make the pads in groups. It is a hands-on training that will enable them to make their own pads.
“My parents don’t buy me pads anymore because I know how to make them,”
The girls now carry out peer-to-peer training sessions with pupils in P3 to P7 and parents. With school administration support, the members are allocated time every month to visit the various classes to talk about a range of issues including teenage pregnancy, child marriage, menstrual hygiene management, among others.
“Menstruation should not prevent you from attending and completing school. If you are not educated, the problems you get in future are many. Stay in school, complete your education. As long as you have your pads, you will complete school and learn,”
Today the girls have enough pads for all pupils in need and testify that they have not had any girls missing school due to menstruation in the past few years.
Joined by their Senior Woman Teacher, the girls complete their session with play activities that include skipping. “Our pads are strong, well-made and as long as we put them on well, we can play freely. Menstruation cannot stop us from playing and learning,” they chorus.