HAVING worked on menstrual health management (MHM) for the last seven years and coming from an organization, Copper Rose Zambia that has donated over 100,000 sanitary pads across the country, I would like to share my two cents on the issues being discussed on Social Media lately.
There are a number of experts in the period poverty field, so when creating events or shows, there is need for the media industry to look for an adept at MHM who can discuss issues and articulate the gains and challenges we have as a country adequately.
By virtual of being a woman, one is preview to the experiences of menstruation but that in itself does not make one an expert to educate the masses.
While most people have thought of period poverty as a lack of pads and other hygiene supplies, there are many aspects to period poverty such as;
1. Over 1million girls in Zambia have limited access to sanitary pads and miss up to 40days in the school year (UNICEF, 2017)
2. Although there may be a lot of organizations and individuals donating pads on a daily basis, what they may not consider is how the girls they are donating to lack underwear and soap which still see girls missing school anyway.
3. Lastly, one of the biggest challenges around menstruation in Zambia is lack of information. Most of the education around puberty is either preparing the girls for marriage and sex or warning them about pregnancy.
There is very little knowledge shared on important subjects like how to understand ones’ menstrual cycle duration or practise of good hygiene, let alone disposal of menstrual product waste and its environmental effects.
While we may point fingers about who said what, i am certain that it will be more beneficial for us to use this period poverty buzz to ask ourselves what we are doing as a country to assist our adolescent girls?
Are there enough successful companies making sanitary products? Are there incentives for institutions doing this kind of work? What is the long term measure we can put in place for constant supply of products?
Because just donating one packet of pads to each girl and posting it on social media is not enough. Can profitable companies adopt some girls in rural areas and supply them with these products on a monthly basis?
There really is a lot to be done because “A nation that neglects its girls and women is working with only half its potential”.
I rest my case.
By Dr. Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma