Plan International Promotes Menstrual Hygiene in Uganda
Sixteen-year-old Maureen of Uganda was enlightened when she first received health training supported by Plan International.
“The main topics were puberty, menstruation, menstrual hygiene, adolescence, and the dangers of early marriage and pregnancy,” she said. “I learned many things that I didn’t know before. I learned a lot about looking after myself during my period and about the importance of bathing in the morning and in the evening, and that I have to change my pad three times during the day.”
Maureen’s schooling is part of a program supporting local women to make low-cost sanitary pads. In addition to addressing women’s practical needs, Plan is also promoting better awareness among women and men to overcome any embarrassment, cultural practices, or taboos around menstruation that are negatively affecting the lives of women and girls.
For girls like Maureen, menstrual hygiene wasn’t a topic regularly discussed.
“My mother never talked to me about it, and when I first saw it, I was scared,” she said. “My friends told me that when I start periods I should use a rag. They didn’t explain it – they just told me to do it. So, I tore up my old clothes and made rags to use.
“I started getting itchy. I told my mother but she said: ‘That never happened to me. Maybe it’s just going to be like that for you.’ I didn’t have any way to treat it or stop it. Now I know it was an infection.”
Before the program, Maureen would miss a lot of school because of her period. Now, she is learning about sustainable ways to keep up with menstrual hygiene.
“[I learned] to use Afripads [locally made, reusable pads] – about how often to change them during different flows and how to wash them,” she said. “Since I started with Afripads, the itching has stopped and I no longer have any health problems like infections.
“I am grateful for the training. Now everybody is comfortable. No one gets stains on their dresses and no one is scared of their period. All the girls [are] coming to school every day and our grades are better. No one is upset about getting their period anymore.”