Exploring how to address on-going taboos and silence around MHM for girls in school

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Exploring how to address on-going taboos and silence around MHM for girls in school

The topic of menstruation and education has been gaining growing attention in recent years around the globe, with increasing efforts to address the gap in menstruation-related information, supplies and toilet facilities to meet menstruating girls and female teachers’ needs in low- and middle-income contexts. An on-going barrier to successfully addressing this issue is the culture of silence around menstruation in many contexts, and the discomfort that many people feel in exploring girls’ actual experiences with managing menstruation and how to best address the challenges they face. There are however many ways to approach this topic in a culturally sensitive way. What are some approaches that have been used successfully or not successfully in different countries to explore the issue of menstruation for girls in school?

Identifying existing taboos and beliefs around menstruation within the larger society can be helpful. This may serve to guide the explorations that are done with girls themselves, and provide insights into why they may be more or less comfortable talking openly about menstruation, their knowledge about managing their monthly blood flow, and its impact on their school experiences. Who are the various people in a given country who might be able to provide such insights, and what are the best ways to approach them?

Older adolescent girls, those who are past the age of 15 and are more likely to have started menstruating already, may be less shy to talk about the changes that have been happening in their bodies, and may have good suggestions on how to assist younger girls who may be experiencing their first menstruation and navigating their school-going. What age groups and genders have organizations approached to identify solutions around MHM in schools?

Participatory methodologies can be an effective way to explore the topic of menstruation and its intersection with school environments in an empowering and safe way for girls. Knowing they are free to write or draw without their names being attached can help to increase an adolescent girls’ level of comfort with sharing such a personal experience. What are the research, program assessment or evaluation methods that have been used to explore this sensitive topi, and best understand girls’ experiences and assess if a given MHM intervention is meeting girls’ needs?

There are cultural beliefs and taboos around menstruation in almost every society in the world. Being respectful of the existence of such beliefs and taboos in each new context is essential for devising solutions together with girls to help overcome the silence they may experience around the topic, and the barriers that hinder interventions being implemented in their schools and communities. Engaging key stakeholders influencing girls’ school-going and their everyday lives is important so that collective solutions can be devised. How have organizations explored the cultural beliefs in girls’ families and communities that may impact their ability to manage menstruation with comfort and dignity?
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