In commemoration of the world menstrual hygiene day, the Uganda youth and adolescents’ health forum (UYAHF) held a radio talk show on 95-time FM Mbale under the topic “Ensuring access to safe menstrual hygiene to every girl” on Saturday, 21st May 2022 from 9:00 to 10:00 am.

Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is commemorated annually on the 28th of May and is a global platform that brings together non-profit organizations, government agencies, individuals, the private sector, and the media to catalyze advocacy and action toward a world where women and girls are no longer limited because of their monthly periods.

This year the day was commemorated under the theme: ‘Making mensuration a normal fact of life by 2030!

The radio talk show held as a pre-activity was held under the objectives: to raise awareness and break the stigma, taboos, and myths surrounding menstrual hygiene management among the public, including in schools and communities; raise awareness around the MHM challenges that women and girls face; equip people in the community with information about the fundamental role of good menstrual hygiene management in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential; and advocate for the integration of menstrual health in all programs targeting adolescent girls and young women.

A panel of four guests, including a young person (UYAHF change advocate), a health worker from the UYAHF ADH clinic, a teacher, and a parent, participated in the one-hour radio talk show

Kakai Christine, a health worker from the UYAHF ADH clinic, opened the discussion by defining menstruation as the monthly shedding of a woman’s uterus lining (more commonly known as the womb). She pointed out that the phrases menses, menstrual period, and cycle are all used to describe menstruation.

She emphasizes that menstruation is a natural and necessary occurrence for all women who have reached puberty, and that it should be treated as such.

Following that, Kirunda Mary, a young woman, presented a number of challenges that girls face during their menstruation, including stigma, particularly from male friends; unaffordable sanitary pads; a lack of private space to change pads; and insufficient water to help with cleaning themselves, particularly at school.

“Many of our friends, particularly in schools, still regard menstruation as a taboo, and if they learn that you are on your period, they isolate you and refuse to associate with you,” Mary continued.

Mrs. Kantono Rehema, a parent on the panel, noted that many girls still avoid telling their parents about their periods and prefer to share them with their friends, making it difficult for parents to help them during this time.

“It’s sad that it takes us so long to realize when our girls’ periods have begun. They don’t tell their mothers about it; instead, they tell close pals. “And one of the reasons, I believe, is that as parents, we are either too busy or not close enough to our girls, so they find it difficult to open up to us about such things,” Kantono continued.

She urged parents to always remember to at least occasionally bring up discussions around menstruation with their girls, especially when they see them approaching puberty age so that they are aware and prepared for when it happens.

“Not all parents don’t talk to their daughters, but I think some of those who do miss out on talking about menstruation, yet this is an important subject that we mothers with a wealth of experience have to share with our daughters. First of all, as parents, we need to follow up on our daughters and be close to them. “It is not yet too late; we can still pick up from here and begin talking to them to ensure that our girls live free from this shame and shyness during their periods,” she explained

While responding to a question on how schools can support girls and ensure that they have menstruation with dignity, Mr. Nangalama Moses, a teacher at Grace Secondary School Mbale, suggested that schools should always organize regular training on menstrual hygiene where they invite health experts to teach the students both the boys and the girls so that it feels more familiar and normal than the usual woman-to-woman talks, which puts the boys aside yet they are key in such discussions; allocate space and inform teachers to always allow girls on their menstruation periods even during class time when they don’t feel well; and also hold accountable individuals who make fun of the girls during their periods.

During the show, Aisha, a listener from Kamonkoli, Budaka, called in and inquired about the cause and how to overcome severe menstrual pain. In response to the questions, Mrs. Kakai Christine, a health worker from the UYAHF ADH clinic informed the listener that whereas in a normal menstruation a woman has not felt pain, A hormone called prostaglandin triggers muscle contractions in the uterus that expel the lining. These contractions can sometimes cause pain and inflammation. The level of prostaglandin rises right before menstruation begins.

She further explained that painful menstrual periods can also be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as Endometriosis; a painful medical condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus grow in other parts of the body, usually on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or tissue lining the pelvis, Fibroids in the uterus which put pressure on the uterus or cause abnormal menstruation and pain, though they often don’t cause symptoms, Pelvic Inflammatory Infections (PID) which is caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that cause inflammation of the reproductive organs and pain among others.

While concluding the show, Sister Christine urged women or girls who experience such abnormal pains to visit a health facility so that medical examinations are done to establish the specific cause and so that they are treated or given remedies to deal with the pain.