Health

Menstrual Hygiene Day: Plan International Cameroon Breaks the Silence, Demystifies Taboos

To mark menstrual hygiene day on May 28, 2022, Plan International Cameroon convened in the nation’s capital, Yaounde close to 200 refugees and internally displaced women, young girls and boys.

On Saturday 28th May 2022, Plan International Cameroon organized a round table discussion with four main experts from the ministries of social affairs, public health, youth affairs and civic education and women’s empowerment and the family.

This year’s celebration of world menstrual hygiene day placed under the theme: “Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030”, paved the way to series of discussions surrounding the topic which is considered as a taboo subject in our society.

The different experts expatiated on the subject with a handful of best practices shared to the audience convened for the commemoration of this significant day in the life of a girl and a woman.

Participants targeted for this activity were in majority refugees, internally displaced persons and people seeking for asylum. They were upskilled in general on menstruation and its benefits to the body of a young girl and woman, puberty, reproductive health, moral and civic education.

In her introductory statements, Jacqueline Nkonla, Focal point of this activity at Plan International Cameroon said menstrual hygiene is vital for the well-being of a girl or woman.

In a little quizz show that she animated, both young boys and girls openly expressed their knowledge on the subject. They were encouraged with some gifts in order to spice up the ceremony. Mrs. Nkonla Jacqueline during the game also highlighted key components for a good hygiene during menstrual flow. And apart from using clean sanitary pads, she said emphasis should be laid on the use of potable water, soap and appropriate toilets during menstrual periods.

The audience showed great concern on the various subjects and brought out several questions which were cleared off by the panelists.

Championing youths

20 years-old Clara from the Central African Republic is one of the 200 participants convened by Plan International in order to benefit from activities marking menstrual hygiene day observed every 28th May. The young refugee praised the initiative of Plan International Cameroon as she learnt a lot on menstrual hygiene.

According to Clara, the round table discussion helped her to understand some issues on her body parts. She outlined facts gained from the session.

“Menstrual flow is a transformative phase in the life of an adolescent girl, it shows changes in our bodies. And what I know is that menstruation is not a taboo subject, we have to talk about it with our parents…” She added.

Vanelle aged 17 on her part said the first time she saw her menstrual flow; it was an abnormal phenomenon. Though she was afraid, she decided to meet her mother in order to share the situation.

“When I met my mother, she told me it was normal. She told me a young girl who sees her menstrual flow can procreate. I have to say that it was not really easy during the first month because she imposed me sanitary pads that I had to wear but with time I got use to them…” Vanelle said.

Young leaders of associations of refugees who have benefited from different programmes put in place by Plan International Cameroon have staged a drama with key messages on fighting against taboos surrounding menstruation, stigma, discrimination and girl marriages.

Most of these youths today champions of change help to educate their peers and empower them with the skills received. Sheila 27, is a young refugee lady from the Central African Republic, she indicated that, since two years now she has been part of youths trained by Plan Cameroon.

“It is a great privilege for me because so far I have benefitted from series of trainings launched by Plan Cameroon in 2019 during the Covid-19 period. Many cannot benefit from this knowledge sharing due to the crisis that affects my country and I really thank Plan International Cameroon for all what they have helped me accomplished as a young champion.”

Program Lead incharge of maternal, sexual and reproductive health at Plan International Cameroon, Serah Ketchen Ashunya said menstrual hygiene day creates room for more dialogue with young people.

She said: “Through this activity we are trying to break the silence around menstruation because it is important that everybody talks about it, and refusing the existence of menstruation means we refuse the existence of mankind. It is only when a woman menstruates that makes it possible for procreation to take place. So, the key message is: menstruation is not a taboo, everybody has to talk about it. We together have to look at it as a subject that includes everybody; young men, young women, girls and boys.”

Tackling taboos

With the celebration of world menstrual hygiene day on May 28, non-governmental organizations working for children’s rights and equality of the girlchild like Plan International, have unveiled several actions to tackle existing taboos on menstruation.

Serah Ketchen Ashunya said: “One of the major strategies that we use is through massive sensitization and sometimes we work with adolescents and youth groups, where we give them the opportunity to express themselves after making presentations on various thematic subjects. They are free to ask their questions on the issue and bring that aspect of taboos, we in return see how we can demystify. And we also have strategies that we use like inter-generational dialogue where we bring together parents and adolescents in order to discuss together and we see which are those areas they can better discuss on, or can make them feel free to ask questions to their parents. Apart from these strategies, we also have sensitizations through radio spots where we pass on information in order to vulgarize messages to help upgrade the level of education of our target populations.”

Activities were closed up with the donation of a series of hygiene kits to young girls present at the commemorative ground of the 2022 world menstrual hygiene day in Mvolye, Yaounde.

Elise Kenimbeni

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