DIANA CHITSAKA: Promoting menstrual health among girls

Feature Health & Wellness

Kindly introduce yourself to us.

I am Diana Chitsaka, Team Leader and Founder of Gift A Girl Child Initiative. I am a nurse and girls advocate.

What is menstrual health?

Menstrual health are factors that link menstruation with health, well being, gender equality, education, equity, empowerment and rights. It goes hand in hand with menstrual hygiene management.

How does our societal norms and culture affect menstrual health and hygiene among menstruators?

They bring about menstrual stigma, such that when a girl is on her menses, most of them are not allowed to cook, pray, or associate with others. They are viewed as unclean during menses. Those with inadequate information like our school children, mock girls during this period.

Are there ways we can eradicate this stigma?

Yes, by education and creating awareness on menstruation. Everyone should know that menstruation is a normal biological process. It is natural and there is no harm in menstruating.

How do you involve the fathers in their daughters’ menstrual hygiene?

We should involve them by educating them about it, so that they have the correct knowledge about it and can reach out to their daughters for discussion. When I go for my outreaches, I make sure during our discussion, we have at least ten fathers who will empower other fathers on the same. I, also, involve male teachers.

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Would it be okay if we conclude that culture is the major hinderance to achieving menstrual hygiene?

Yes, culture is a hindrance. Others include religion.

Whenever you go to the community to teach about periods, involve the village elders and community health volunteers so that through them good information about periods is taken deep in the community and gradually, cultural hindrance shall be history.

What challenges do the girls you interact with in your programs face, with regards to menstrual health and hygiene?

The challenges include inability to access the sanitary towels since most are coming from low income families. Pregnancies that come about through intra commercial sex in exchange of money to buy sanitary towels, is another problem.

Infections such as urinary tract infection that is brought about by poor menstrual hygiene, is another issue. Some of our girls don’t have the proper information about periods including a larger percentage of the community. Some of them also don’t know how to deal with menstrual cramps.

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How can we help in improving the situation and promote menstrual health in general?

  • By supporting those who cannot afford to purchase sanitary towels through donating to them

  • Teaching our young girls on hygiene during menses

  • Clarifying information on myths and taboos around menstruation.

  • Ensuring access of these essential commodities

  • Teaching girls and women on menstrual hygiene so that they don’t get infections like the urinary tract infection.

  • Involving everyone in menstrual health awareness, moreso male involvement.

In case one would like to donate to Gift A Girl Child Initiative, how do they go about?

Gift a Girl child Initiative has a Paybill Number 834515, Account Number- Gift A Girl

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Ultimately, what role can men play in promoting menstrual health and hygiene?

We need male involvement to win this war. Men should teach our girls and create awareness on menstruation. They should support our girls with the essential commodities and our community will be a better place for our girls.

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