From period poverty to period parity: Keeping girls safe and happy

| May 26, 2023

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This edition’s story from Mali focuses on how one school in the country is improving girls’ lives by respecting their need to practice good menstrual health by supplying sanitary pads and through other actions. Our Script of the week covers the same topic.

Menstruation is a natural part of women and girl’s reproductive cycle in which menstrual blood is lost through the vagina. This loss of blood occurs, on average, for two to seven days during a menstrual cycle. Menstrual cycles can occur every 21-35 days during reproductive age. In many parts of the world, menstruation is a taboo subject, and, as a result of religious and traditional beliefs, may be seen as embarrassing, shameful, and “dirty.”

Such stigma means that many adolescent girls may not be prepared for their periods or understand how to manage them. According to The World Bank, at least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate materials for managing menstrual hygiene, including sanitary towels or tampons, soap and water, and also lack facilities to change, clean, and dispose of hygiene products. It is very important that young girls know how to manage their menstrual cycle before their first period. This requires that girls have access to age-appropriate and timely information. Unfortunately, they do not receive good information about menstrual hygiene due to lack of resources and social constraints that make talking about these issues difficult.

Inaccurate information or lack of information on how to properly manage menstruation can lead to poor hygiene practices during menstruation, which can result in illness and missing school. According to a 2014 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, one out of every 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. UNESCO researchers also found that better sanitary care and reproductive health education for girls improves attendance.

In this program, we hear what action is being taken in Kenya and Uganda on menstrual health and hygiene. We speak with Florence Kamaitha of Pad Heaven and Geoffrey Businge of AFRIpads about their washable and reusable pads, as well as how they are providing girls with information on menstruation. We also hear from two young Kenyan girls named Quinter and Lucy, who cannot enjoy school activities because they do not have access to proper sanitary pads.

If you want to produce a similar program about menstrual health concerns such as the “period poverty” shown in this script, you could use this script as a guide. If you decide to present the script on your regular program, you could use voice actors or radio hosts to represent the interviewees. In this case, please inform your audience at the beginning of the program that these are the voices of voice actors, not the actual interviewees.

If you want to create programs about menstruation issues, talk to a reproductive health doctor or social worker. For example, you could ask them the following questions:

  • Why is it important to talk openly about menstruation?
  • Apart from disposable sanitary towels, what other safe sanitary pad alternatives are there?
  • What are some good hygiene practices during menstruation for both rural and urban settings?
  • How can you encourage the community to be engaged in menstrual health (at school and at home)?

This script is also available in Amharic and Portuguese.