Men­strual Hy­giene: the key is­sue in Uganda that has yet to be paid at­ten­tion to

By: MSO­BOR CHEMON­GES TIM­O­THY

“What sort of mother al­lows her daugh­ters to keep away from school be­cause they are too poor to af­ford padding ma­te­ri­als that would ad­e­quately pro­tect them from the shame and ridicule that comes by stain­ing their uni­forms with men­strual blood?” This was a tweet put up by Dr. Stella Nyanzi at the hight of the Pads for Girls [Pad4­girl­sug]” cam­paign .

Whereas the le­gal frame­work in Uganda is alive to ma­ter­nal and re­pro­duc­tive health rights,  like Ar­ti­cle 30 and 34 of the 1995 con­sti­tu­tion of Uganda which pro­vides for the right to ed­u­ca­tion to all per­sons of Uganda and im­poses the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing chil­dren with ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion on the state and the par­ents, Uganda in its as­pi­ra­tion to pro­vide ma­ter­nal and re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices for girls and women and specif­i­cally on Men­strual Hy­giene,  still faces so­cial, eco­nomic and cul­tural chal­lenges leav­ing a lot to be de­sired.

Men­strual Hy­giene(MH) is a key and a fun­da­men­tal con­cern that specif­i­cally touches on the ex­is­tence, pro­duc­tiv­ity, per­for­mance and the well be­ing of girls in school. So­ci­etal stigma, in­suf­fi­cient knowl­edge and mea­sures pro­vided to young girls in and those close to pu­berty stage, lack of es­sen­tial sup­port and ameni­ties for man­ag­ing men­strual hy­giene, ab­sence of pri­vate space and hy­gienic wash­rooms, in­ap­pro­pri­ate fa­cil­i­ties for dis­posal of used men­strual ma­te­ri­als, lack of or in­ad­e­quate wa­ter and the phys­i­cal pain like headache that char­ac­ter­izes men­strual cy­cle, have gen­er­ally stood as im­ped­i­ments to women and girls in the bid to reach and achieve their full po­ten­tial.

Aware that women and girls in low-in­come set­tings in Uganda (who hap­pen to be the ma­jor­ity), have low aware­ness on hy­gienic prac­tices and lack cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­ri­als for men­strual hy­giene (MH) prac­tices, there is great need to in­clude sub­jects and course units on re­pro­duc­tive health rights start­ing from pri­mary schools, lobby for a leg­is­la­tion that di­rectly places the re­spon­si­bil­ity on Gov­ern­ment of pro­vid­ing free, suf­fi­cient and qual­ity san­i­tary tow­els to school girls who have reached the ages of pu­berty and en­cour­age reusable pads . These will go a long way to counter the so­cial taboos, the shame and the si­lence that is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with “Men­stru­a­tion” that re­strict mo­bil­ity, free­dom and ac­cess to nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties.