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Menstrual Caravan to Bushenyi District.

Menstruation is a natural and normal biological process that every woman experiences in her lifetime as a transition from childhood to adulthood. This, however, has not spared girls and young women, especially in underprivileged communities from continuing to face a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding menstrual health. In many communities, access to menstrual hygiene products is not only unaffordable but remains limited, leading to girls missing school and social stigma during their periods.

To contribute to the fight against period poverty, stigma, and menstrual injustice, change champions at the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) on March 7th, 2024, led a one-day menstrual hygiene health caravan to Kibaazi primary school, a rural school in Bushenyi district, to educate and empower young girls about their menstrual rights and bodily autonomy. 

The change champions from the Kampala Youth Hub led by their chairperson Nuwampeire Shabellah held interactive sessions with hundreds of pupils’ the majority from primary five and primary seven, in the highly populated government primary school, where they taught them about menstruation health, how to correctly use menstrual pads, and maintaining proper hygiene during periods.

According to Racheal Nabasa, one of the change champions, the young people had intriguing mentions of myths around menstruation, like ‘if one puts the used cloth after menstruation under sunshine, the heat burns their ovaries and they will not be able to give birth, if one plays sex during menstruation, she will smell for the rest of their lives, among others’.

We were able to provide accurate and adequate information about menstruation, address the myths and misconceptions surrounding periods, and went ahead to teach them how to properly wear pads and dispose disposal. Many students shared personal struggles with managing their periods due to a lack of information and societal stigma, she added.

“No one tells us about menstruation and how to go through it, we learn from our friends. Even the teachers are not so open about this topic.” Kirabo Grace, a primary six student, stated.

Kembabazi Loyce, a primary six pupil, revealed that the boys usually tease them when they learn that they are in their menstruation periods, and this makes many of them fear coming to school while in their periods. She, however, noted that through the sessions, they now feel empowered and informed about menstruation being their right, and they will no longer feel ashamed about it.

With support from Touch the Slum, Maka Pads, and other donors, the champions distributed free sanitary pads and scholastic materials to alleviate the burden on underprivileged families. Nuwampeire Shabella emphasized the importance of providing essential items to enable uninterrupted school attendance for girls and boys alike.

“By providing these essential items, we hope to ease some of the burdens on these young girls and boys to ensure that they can continue to attend school regularly without interruption,” said Nuwampeire Shabella, UYAHF change champion.

According to the school head teacher, Mr. Tushabe Emanuel, the sessions were not only informative but also eye-opening to them as a school. “Actually, most of our schools normally ignore these topics around menstruation without realizing how much they affect young girls”, he added

The head teacher acknowledged the significance of the sessions in raising awareness and pledged to prioritize menstruation education in the school. He committed to creating a supportive environment for menstruating girls and ensuring regular sessions on menstrual health, hence creating a favorable environment for menstruating girls at school.

The menstrual caravan exemplifies the commitment to challenging period poverty and menstrual injustices, fostering empowerment and inclusivity in underprivileged communities.