May 28, 2017 was observed globally as Menstrual Hygiene Day. It is a global platform for partners across all sectors to engage in awareness, advocacy and knowledge sharing around the importance of menstrual hygiene management. The day was celebrated in some parts of the country.
A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Sustainable Development Focus Limited (SUDEF) Ghana, organised a forum at the Serwaa Kesse Girls’ Senior High School at Duayaw-Nkwanta in the Tano North District of the Brong Ahafo Region on the theme: “Education to create awareness among girls on the need to observe hygiene during their menstrual period,” reports Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah & Biiya Mukusah Ali.
More than 1,000 students of the school attended the forum.
Addressing the students, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sustainable Development Focus Limited (SUDEF) Ghana, Mr John Baidoo, said the celebration of the day would help break the silence and build awareness of menstruation to enable women and girls to reach their full potential.
He called on policy makers to encourage menstrual education among boys, men, teachers, health workers and other professionals to help break negative social norms and provide accurate information and support to the women.
Mr Baidoo also called on them to render education on menstrual hygiene to enable women and girls to feel confident and empowered to make informed decisions about how to manage their menstruation.
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Dr Nyame-Aye Adowa Gaisie of the Surgery Department of the Sunyani Regional Hospital, who took the participants through the proper use of sanitary pad, advised them to wash their hands with soap and running water before putting on their sanitary pads and ensure proper use of the sanitary pads to prevent leakages.
From Nyankpala in the Northern Region, Samuel Duodu reports that Right to Play, an international NGO, has called for increased public awareness to eradicate the misconceptions, myths and negative perceptions about menstruation.
The Team Leader of Right to Play, Northern Ghana, Mr Samuel Oppong Kwabiah, who made the call at a durbar of schoolchildren, parents, teachers and residents of Nyankpala to mark the day also advocated for all schools to have a menstrual-friendly environment by having changing rooms for girls to change while in their menses at school to make them feel comfortable.
He also stated that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities with soap should be provided in the schools as part of efforts to make them menstrual friendly to encourage girls to be in school during their menstrual periods, since most girls stayed away from school during their menses which consequently affects their academic performance.
He noted that three key elements, which included awareness creation on menstruation and a menstrual-friendly environment in schools, would help empower girls to stay in schools and help improve their academic performance.
The Tolon District Director of Education, Reverend Mrs Georgina Anaba Nuogah, commended Right to Play for organising the durbar to educate the attendees on menstruation to enable them to support girls in their time of menses.
She called on teachers to teach their pupils, especially those in Primary four and five, about menstrual constraints before they get to the junior high school (JHS).
From Accra, Esther Omoha reports that as part of activities marking the day, a campaign aimed at educating girls, boys and stakeholders on menstrual hygiene management issues has been launched.
Dubbed “Education about Menstruation changes everything”, it is an initiative by the Ghana Education Service (GES), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) and the Canadian High Commission, to provide support for girls to enable them to manage their menses by observing menstrual hygiene.
The campaign would help in strengthening evidence-based advocacy and action on menstrual hygiene management in the country through the UNICEF Support WASH In Schools Project and would lead to a more supportive school environment for girls.
In connection with the initiative, communication materials have been developed to help in the education process when unveiled.
At the launch in Accra, the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, said the government was committed to building a country that harnesses the talents of all.
The minister, whose speech was read by Prof. Kwasi Opoku Amankwah, the acting Director General of the Ghana Education Service, said the education of girls should not be affected by their menstrual period, adding, “It is not acceptable for the education of girls to be adversely affected because of a natural cycle that we all benefit from.”
He, therefore, urged individuals, organisations and stakeholders to join in the campaign to assist in educating both girls and boys in the country.
“The involvement of men and boys in menstrual hygiene education is critical to ensure constant support for women and girls,” he said.
The acting Deputy Director-General, GES, Mrs Cynthia Bosomtwe Sam, said when the right education was provided for girls, they would be able to participate in school activities during menstruation.
She added that the wrong attitude would continue if girls and boys were not given adequate education concerning menstruation and how to handle challenges associated with it.
For his part, the Chief of WASH programme, UNICEF, Mr David Duncan, said the topic of menstruation had been neglected and needed to be reconsidered to enable girls to have equal access to education.
He said 95 per cent of girls missed school at some point as a result of menstruation, which negatively affected their performance in school.
“Boys and men, particularly teachers, need to be part of the education process to support our young girls,” he said.