Some of the pupils of Sweswe primary school posing for a group picture

Women and girls especially those living in extreme poverty and hard to reach areas experience unique challenges when it comes to menstruation and this situation has only worsened during the pandemic. Many essential aspects of WASH were forgotten and emphasis was put on preventing the spread of COVID-19. In Uganda, vulnerable groups of people grappled with managing their menstruation and addressing the taboo and stigma associated with dignity. The measures taken by governments to curb down the spread of COVID-19 such as restrictions of work, movement, and education, have made it difficult for people to continue with their income-generating activities and have widened the poverty gap. The pandemic has highlighted the uniquely gendered challenges women and girls have been facing and made Menstrual Health Management (MHM) more urgent than ever. Ensuring that women and girls can address and manage their menstruation safely and hygienically, is of utmost importance.

As Uganda emerged from the peak of the pandemic and restrictions on movement begin to ease, the challenge for millions of people who menstruate continues. The impact COVID-19 has had on women are being seen all over the world. To gain a deeper understanding of the specific problems COVID-19 has posed for managing menstrual health and hygiene, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) carried out an online survey on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Meeting the critical menstrual hygiene management needs of women and girls is central to an inclusive global response that promotes equality and social inclusion and because SRHR rights are critical to UYAHF they started up #MensturationWithDignity. The campaign aimed to raise awareness, give a platform for everyone to contribute what they can, and ultimately to acquire menstruation and hygiene management products such as knickers, soap, water tanks, and sanitary pads. All this to ensure that all women and girls can menstruate with dignity and are not left behind.

Many people joined the campaign and UYAHF would like to take this opportunity to say thank you once again. Because of your generosity, we were able to reach out to over 200 vulnerable girls and 50 vulnerable women and girls in the community of Kyakka II refugee settlement and Kyegegwa district on the 10th and 11th of December 2020. The primary 7 pupils of Mukondo primary school and Sweswe primary school were given items and knowledge on how to maintain hygiene during their menstruation. They were excited to share the knowledge received with others and within their communities and wanted to help address the issue of stigma that is deep-rooted within Kyakka II.

Miss Katushabe Lifas, Senior Staff at Sweswe primary school, informed UYAHF that some of the pupils had already started missing school because they didn’t have menstruation products to use and others were impregnated by some of the people who offered them with menstruation pads during the pandemic. The families in Kyakka II are economically grappling so it’s hard for them to prioritize menstruation products for their children. The money that they would have used to cater to these items will now be allocated to other essential items in their homes. This challenge is ongoing and UYAHF hopes to keep breaking down barriers for these girls in the future. Everyone from the UYAHF team appreciates each one of you that made this possible.

A pupil demonstrating how to use a sanitary pad