Thursday 24th May was a tremendous day as Uganda and the Civil society especially Non-Governmental Organizations and Community Based organizations that are promoting good practices on Menstrual Hygiene Management came together to share knowledge, best practices and challenges which they were facing in this patriotic campaigns to end stigma and break the silence on Menstruation. They included NGO’s that produce and market Menstrual products for instance Reusable pads (Vine pads, Ecopads, So sure pads, Afripads) Menstrual caps, Information, Education and Communication materials –IEC and multimedia education materials. The event was organized by the Ministry of Education and Sports together with other stakeholders in commemoration of the International Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018.

Precious Kerunga –UYAHF
Precious Kerunga –UYAHF programs director shares best practices from the Ensonga campaign during the symposium.

Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health being a MHM champion through its Ensonga campaign to break the silence and end stigma on Menstruation targeting girls and boys in out of school since 2015 actively participated in making this National symposium a success.

With the high young population in Uganda, 1 in 4 girls aged 15-19 is already a mother or pregnant with her first child which is evident in many developing countries where the onset of puberty results in significant changes in school participation for girls. In Uganda, 45% of girls without education have already had a baby, compared to 16% of girl with secondary education.  One of the steps to ensure quality education for all children is to eliminate barriers to girls (and boys) out of the classroom which stem from sociocultural environments and lack of correct information on MHM. In SDG 6, it is stated that by 2030, countries must achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls in vulnerable situations and NGOs such as UYAHF are playing a big role in ensuring this is achieved through supporting the Ugandan government.

The main objective of the symposium was to strengthen commitment to menstrual hygiene management in the country specifically, creating an opportunity for key stakeholders to evaluate MHM interventions since 2014 and strengthen mechanisms for cross-sectoral integration, coordination and collaboration.

The first national menstrual Hygiene management conference in Uganda was held on 14-15 August 2014 in Kampala and since then there has been several positive steps taken to promote menstrual hygiene management in the country.  In the NDP II, government committed to design and implement partnership frameworks to address social, cultural and other barriers to girls’ and boys’ attendance and retention in schools; develop and implement programs that ensure a safe and non-violent and inclusive learning environment in schools and improve infrastructure in our institutions.

In 2015, government together with its partners signed a charter committing to promote the rights of girls and women during and after the menstrual cycle. In the same year, the Ministry of Education and Sports sent out a circular to all districts, schools and institutions on menstrual hygiene management in schools.

The guest of honor was Hon. Dr. Muyingo J.C the Minister for Higher Education (Uganda Government), Member of Parliament representing Bamunanika Constituency, Luweero District-Uganda. In his communication, he noted the great progress and support the civil society was doing to support government on MHM since a lot of sensitization and MHM skills have been passed on to community members.

Students of St. Andrew Kaggwa entertaining delegates during the symposium above

He also emphasized the need for both parents to keep supporting the girls with not only scholastic materials but also MHM products in order to create a supportive environment to keep girls in school. The school administrators were encouraged to construct and maintain enough WASH infrastructure which include toilets with access to water, changing rooms, soap, sanitary towels and a senior woman ready to support the young girls during their menstruation. He also cautioned the NGOs on quality of the menstrual products to get certification from the National Bureau of standards to avert infections that would emanate from poor products. “There are still challenges being faced by girls in the far rural areas that also need to gain from these MHM programs and we call upon civil society to support Government reach these areas” He noted. “The cost and production of eco-friendly sanitary pads and their disposal (incineration facilities) is still a challenge in Uganda and as Government we promised to supply these pads to girls however we are still facing financial challenges. However we ought to fulfill our promise and roll out MHM distribution starting with the neediest communities.

Apart from being part of the organizers, UYAHF spearheaded the online social media campaign on MHM from 22nd May on twitter @MenstralDayUg and #MHDUg18 as well as on Facebook with more than 2,775,685 impressions during the symposium.

The National symposium on MHM was very educative and it entailed entertainment from the St. Andrew Kaggwa Gombe high school that fed the audience with cultural dances and short skits to emphasize the myths and misconceptions on MHM and how everyone should be engaged in breaking the silence on Menstruation.