Zambian youth involving men in menstrual hygiene programs-
– Menstrual hygiene is a topic that is not openly discussed in Zambia due to the myths and misconceptions surrounding the matter. The situation is gradually changing due to ongoing programs.
In Zambia, large numbers of men and boys have incorrect information about menstruation which they use to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against younger women and girls.
It is in this context that Mwinji Nakamba, an entrepreneur based in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, has invested in male participation to end the stigma and discrimination associated with menstruation.
Nakamba, 26, the founder of Wastemat, a Zambian company that makes reusable sanitary napkins, has been running menstrual hygiene awareness programs for men and school-age boys since June this year.
The programs are held at learning institutions within Lusaka and on various media platforms.
“The goal is to make men and boys understand that menstruation is normal among adolescent girls and women of childbearing age. The stigma associated with periods can erode women’s and girls’ confidence and cause them to miss out on many opportunities in life,” he said. she explained in a recent interview.
According to Nakamba, getting men to play an active role in combating myths and misconceptions about menstruation would ensure greater access to sanitary pads and other supports women and girls need to maintain good menstrual hygiene.
“It would also make learning spaces more girl-friendly. Girls will have the freedom to participate in activities at school and other settings. They won’t have to worry about being discriminated against just because they have their period,” she said.
Nakamba further revealed that through sensitization programmes, a significant number of men and boys are beginning to understand that menstruation is not a disease and that having a period does not prevent women and girls from doing their normal daily activities.
“It is good to note that men can now engage women and girls in conversations about access to sanitary napkins. This is a huge milestone in ending period poverty in Zambia,” she said.
According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, one in 10 school-age girls in Africa misses school or drops out entirely during her menstrual cycle. Many young women from low-income families cannot afford what their more affluent peers consider basic items. As a result, they are losing significant amounts of schooling each month. ■