Health and Hygiene Manager Nadia Hitimana kicked off our initiative to train primary school teachers about menstrual health and hygiene management with 50 teachers from the Eastern District of Rwanda.

Teaching the ABCs about Menstrual Hygiene

Guest post by Nadia Hitimana, Health and Hygiene Manager, Rwanda

Our main goal of our teacher’s training initiative is to provide accurate information about menstrual hygiene management, or MHM. Education has always been our first step in breaking the silence and taboos about menstruation. We’re starting with teachers, whom will then train other staff members and key student leaders. This multiplier effect will then spread into the communities.

We began with a group of 50 teachers in November, and our objectives were (1) to increase teachers’ knowledge and skills about MHM; and (2) to equip teachers to train our MHM curriculum with their students.

Teachers deeply appreciated our training program. Our curriculum covered the gamut of health knowledge and related topics. The teachers were receptive, yet prevailing myths and taboos still came up as points of contention. I couldn’t believe it when one teacher still was not convinced that some women should be farming when menstruating.

Another teacher, however, expressed a new sense of admiration for his wife after learning about the menstrual cycle. “I am ashamed for blaming her about not being able to control the number of pregnancies she has had. I can’t imagine how confusing and stressful it must be for her and other women who are not informed.”

Our work with the 50 teachers continues throughout this year. We will continue to work with these teachers throughout 2015 so they can be effective MHM education trainers at their schools.

Stay tuned as we share more about our work with teachers this year!

HAHA Beat: SHE featured as a case study in recent UNESCO report

Guest Post from Global Health Intern Sereena Singh

Working with SHE as a Global Health Intern, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a remarkable and groundbreaking event that announced the publication of “Puberty Education and Menstrual Hygiene Management: Booklet 9”, a key document published by UNESCO in partnership with Proctor and Gamble. This is particularly exciting since SHE was included as a case study for our dual-pronged business approach and advocacy work to addressing menstrual hygiene at the school level.

The event included a first-hand account about the impact of the menstrual hygiene management crisis from a young woman from India. Ameira works for the YP Foundation in New Delhi, India, and did not learn about proper menstrual hygiene until she was 18 years old and attended a health workshop. She is now working with young girls and women in India on educating them about menstrual hygiene. UNESCO Director, Irina Bokova, stated that puberty should be a turning point and not a barrier for these girls. Menstrual hygiene management deserves the upmost attention to help keep girls in school, and feel confident about themselves.

I have been interning with SHE for almost 8 months now, and I’m proud to say that the work we have been doing and continue to do so has helped many women in Rwanda to become game-changers of menstrual hygiene management. This is a major feat in the ongoing battle that many other young women in developing countries face. With already precarious health and educational infrastructures in these countries, shining light on this issue and pulling these women out of ignominy is what will endow them with the confidence to overcome the fears and shames of menstruation. It is with highest hopes that this booklet serves as a reminder of how far we have come and how much further we need to go. While this publication represents a shining beacon of progression, we must continue to break the silence, foster confidence, and empower these amazing young women around the world.

As Joyce McFadden stated, “If a girl cannot feel at home in her own body, she cannot feel at home anywhere.” No young girl or woman should ever feel ashamed of herself because of her body, PERIOD.