No Taboo Periods

Since 2015, Speak Up Africa has worked on filling the knowledge gap around menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in Senegal. To gain a better understand of MHM, Speak Up Africa conducted in 2016 a qualitative study to collect the variables and key indicators that define and explain the behaviors, attitudes and practices of girls and women during their menstruation period. To further its research, SUA conducted a quantitative and qualitative study in July 2017 in Pikine and Guédiawaye. Both cities regroup 50.7% of the total population of the Dakar region. The results from this latest study demonstrated that the subject of menstruation perpetuates shame amongst 55.81% and fear amongst 40.34% girls and women, with an 83.56% not being prepared to welcome their first menstrual cycle. In addition, there is a lack of access to clean and secure toilets leading to immense long-term repercussions and influence on women’s health, education and living conditions. This lack of access also has other effects including:

  • A significant impact on attendance and academic performance within the schoolgirls surveyed, 45.12% reported their inability to attend school regularly during their menstrual cycle.
  • A loss of productivity amongst female employees surveyed reporting missing an average of 2.5 days of work per month.
  • Women in the informal sector estimate the shortfall of one to three days of inactivity, i.e. estimated economic losses from $3 to $75 depending on the type of activity.

To contribute to reducing these challenges, Speak Up Africa launched the “No Taboo Periods” campaign, which is meant to:

  • Help break the silence around menstruation
  • Raise awareness about the role of MHM as a public health priority in public policies
  • Generate political support on the issue while helping girls and women reach their full potential.

To maximize community engagement around the issue of MHM, Speak Up Africa created “The Lab” in Pikine, where the majority of the population lives on less than $2 a day. The Lab was meant to be safe haven where women, girls, boys and men can freely discuss and exchange on issues related to MHM. Speak Up Africa worked in close collaboration with the Health District of Pikine to ensure our activities were fully integrated within the practices of the health pyramid. With the help of community health workers, neighbourhood godmothers, youth and women associations, Speak Up Africa reached about 12 000 people with key messaging around MHM.

In August 2017, Speak Up Africa was invited to participate in the National Girls’ Camp organized by the Office of the First Lady of Sierra Leone, her Excellency Sia Nyama Koroma, in order to facilitate a workshop on menstrual hygiene management. During this interactive workshop, dialogues took place with the 100 girls in attendance to learn about their perceptions and attitudes regarding menstrual hygiene management. We also distributed kits including reusable sanitary pads produced by ApiAfrique and communication materials presenting key MHM messages.

In December 2020, thanks to a partnership with l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Speak Up Africa started an initiative with Kitambaa, a social enterprise, which aims to provide to every young African girls and women of childbearing age with a kit of reusable pads that meets their hygienic needs, in order to enable them to participate equitably in the development of their country, by mitigating the upheavals – in their education and in their lives – caused by their periods and the lack of accessibility of disposable hygiene products and adequate infrastructure. Our joint initiative called “Menstrual hygiene management: from taboo to economic empowerment” strives to set up a mobile menstrual hygiene management lab whose pilot phase targets the communities of Sandiara, in Senegal.

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