Government makes strides to address the gaps in menstrual health and hygiene
By Natasha Jacha
The Government together with the United Nations, this week hosted the very first national commemoration of the Menstrual Health and Hygiene Day held in the Omaheke Region
The commemoration was under the theme, ‘Empowering women and girls through good and safe menstrual health and hygiene’.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Hon Juliet Kavetuna, at the event said the day is an important platform to remind stakeholders that our girls require dignified, safe and private facilities and the products for them clean, confident and secure enough to continue with daily activities during menstruation.
“When girls do not have adequate sanitation and when they face challenges in getting sanitary pads, they are surrounded by discriminatory social taboos about menstruation. The girls will continue to be deprived of opportunities to participate freely and comfortably in school, play or other social activities,” she added.
According to Kavetuna the event has set the tone for the development of policies and programmes to address the social, economic and cultural barriers to safe and dignified menstrual health and hygiene management.
“Girls become shy and stressed during this period and many then decide to stay at home if they do not have the right facilities, products and information to manage their menstruation in a dignified manner, that is why it is difficult for us to sit back and not pay attention when the lives of young girls are at stake,” said the Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Education Arts and Culture, Sanet Steenkamp.
However, she added that in some cultural groups, menstruation remains a taboo and often associated with uncleanliness and shame. “Within these cultural settings, women and girls are forced into seclusion during menstruation and parents do not feel comfortable sharing information with their growing children,” she added.
Meanwhile the government, together with UNICEF, has also supported the establishment of Menstrual Hygiene Management Clubs as part of the School Led Total Sanitation, programme. And both girls and boys within schools are equipped with knowledge about menstruation and empowered to know the facts about this natural process, while also shunning from the myths and taboos through the 52 clubs which have been established.
Furthermore the government is making efforts to address the gaps in menstrual health and hygiene as one of the strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for health, access to education, gender equality, access to water and sanitation and to ensure female participation in the workforce for sustainable economic growth.
As a practical gesture to promote hygienic menstrual management, a local youth based organisation, Afriyan, mobilised sanitary pads from UN Agencies, FNB Namibia and NYC AFRIYAN members. More than 1,500 girls will benefit from this befitting gesture to provide safe and hygienic menstruation among the girls of Namibia.
According to statistics, only 17% of female living in rural areas have access to improved sanitation facilities and this deprives women of the privacy and infrastructure required for healthy, safe and hygienic menstrual management.