In Uganda, menstruation is usually seen as a private issue and is not usually talked about in public, making it difficult for girls to manage their periods at school.
WaterAid Uganda has been working with 40 schools in the slums of Kampala, the capital. As well as providing safe water and sanitation facilities, we’re promoting menstrual hygiene in schools to empower students and teachers to talk about the subject.
Madina Namugenyi is the school matron and part of a new generation of Ugandan women determined to break the silence on menstrual hygiene. She works at Maisarah Primary School in the slums of Kampala, where she looks after 58 girls who board there. She provides counselling for the girls, talking about their health and proper menstrual hygiene management.
Madina is very proud of her work as a matron. She says, "I have taught them to be clean, I am happy that many adolescent girls confide in me especially during their period.
“I make sure that I talk to girls about menstruation. Poor communication with adolescent girls often leads to low self-esteem among girls experiencing menstruation and can result into poor performance in class or missing coming to school each time they have their periods.”
Madina also has an emergency menstrual hygiene toolkit with disposable sanitary pads, cotton wool and painkillers for girls experiencing menstruation, all bought by the school management.
Nabirye Gorreth, 28, is a senior teacher at the school and she is in charge of the health club. She says, “I talk to both girls and boys about body changes during puberty, menstrual hygiene management, empower the School Health Club members to become safe WASH promoters in school and agents of change among fellow children and in their homes."
The girls at Maisarah Primary School now know how to manage their periods hygienically and are able to talk to members of staff about what they are going through. Boys at the school are also taught about menstruation so that they know that menstration is normal.
Peer learning is also plays a large part. Students who are members of the school health club can become peer educators and teach other students about menstrual hygiene, safe water and sanitation, and other health issues.
WaterAid is part of a coalition of organisations who are marking today as the first ever Menstrual Hygiene Day to raise awareness of women and girls’ right to manage their periods hygienically.