• Leonie Werner

Breaking the menstrual taboo with faith leaders

Under the hashtag #NoMoreLimits posts on campaigns, activities, and celebrations for Menstrual Hygiene Day were uploaded all around the world on May 28th. One of these events was a workshop on MHM held in the Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service (TCRS) House in Dar es Salaam between faith leaders, the Government, and NGOs in Tanzania who came together to see ways to break the Menstrual taboos.

Among the representatives were Faustina Nillan Losai who is the director for Women‘s Work & Children Program from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, Mercy Nkya from the Ministry of Education Tanzania, Dr. Josephine Sundqvist from Regional Representative for Eastern Africa for the Church of Sweden, Dr. Majaliwa Marwa from the United Nations Population Fund, Bertha Mhepela from the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr. Gofwin Maimu who is President from Tagoane Gospel Network, Ludvig Bontell from the Swedish Embassy and Anna Kähkölä from Lunette, a menstrual cup supplier.

The audience was led through the program by Dr. Paul Mmbando throughout the afternoon. The participants introduced themselves with their name and when they had first learned about menstruation. Some had simply learned from their parents or aunts. Others had never been taught, but had to find out by themselves how to maintain hygienic. Then there were those that learned they would fly to the moon and others were even told that they had a deadly disease when they first got their period. This clearly showed us the great need for better education in schools on topics of menstruation .

Tai afterwards presented its 3D animation, the first episode of Harakati za Lucy, which was highly praised by all participants in the room. Anna then did a quiz with the audience which brought some surprising results, for example that the amount of waste a woman produces on average by using sanitary pads equals the capacity of a big moving van.

Dr. Majaliwa gave the audience many reasons why we should talk more about MHM, such as the inadequate information passed on in school, the lack of information on infections occurring from bad MHM, and its effect on school attendance as well as to break the taboo that still lingers in society. Furthermore, Master’s student Bertha Mhepela from the University of Dar es Salaam introduced her thesis on WASH facilities and implications on MHM existing in rural secondary schools in Tanzania.

At the end of the event Anna presented the different sanitary products available on today‘s market. She explained the use of disposable sanitary pads as well as reusable ones, tampons, and the menstrual cup. The audience was particularly interested in the cup, as this innovation is currently not widely known yet in Tanzania. Anna explained that the cup can significantly reduce the amount of waste we produce every day: one cup can be used for up to 10 years.

The mission of MHM Day is to create a world in which every woman and girl can manage their menstruation in a more hygienic way, wherever she is, in privacy and safety, and with dignity. The leaders all came together to carry this spirit on into their work, to break the silence and to emphasize the role of religion in delivering MHM training in a country like Tanzania.

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