by Makeba TCHOBOZO IN Dakar, Senegal
On Sunday, in order to break the silence on menstrual hygiene management, UN Women and WSSCC organised a panel to discuss: « gender, hygiene and sanitation: impact of public policies on menstrual hygiene management ». This meeting which was in the framework of AfricaSan4 and held in UN Women premises in Dakar has gathered experts, MPs, representatives of ministers, CSO members, NGOs as well as the media.
« The day I got my first period, I was ashamed. I told my father that I was dying. He told me that I have rather become a woman. I could not talk about it with my mother, because I have never discussed this issue with her ». This heartbreaking testimony of a participant to this panel raises the whole issue of lack of communication and issues related to menstrual hygiene management in African societies. For her, this session provided an opportunity and a discussion platform to finally break the taboo around the issue. For Mrs. Fatou Wade, the Senegalese Parliament vice-chair, this meeting is welcome to promote discussions with people and advocate to public authorities to improve girls’ life. The success of our advocacy work requires facing challenges such as silence, taboos, shame surrounding menstrual hygiene simply because unfortunately again, menstruation means isolation. «it’s difficult to talk about menstruation », pursued the representative of the ministry of environment and sustainable development.
To avoid making a mountain out of a molehill so that menstruations become an obvious and simple issue, communication is the best strategy « It’s all about communication involving all of us: men, women, young girls…… ». It is the opinion of the various panel members that mothers must discuss this issue with their daughters before the first periods. Communication action must go beyond family to reach NGOs. It is also necessary to jointly work within sexual education programmes and ensure that menstrual hygiene issues are taught in schools.
According to Mariame Dem from WaterAid, many beliefs surround menstruations. That’s why it must be « a father and mother issue. Rather than an issue, see it as an opportunity to improve our girls’ education through new communication tools».