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HEALTH DIPLOMACY AS A TOOL FOR ADVANCING WOMEN’S AND GIRLS’ ISSUES

HEALTH DIPLOMACY AS A TOOL FOR ADVANCING WOMEN’S AND GIRLS’ ISSUES- Inspiring Inclusion in Menstrual Health: Breaking Barriers for Women and Girls in Africa

By Doctor/PhD member Nissi Linda Ikenna-Amadi nee Kalio / Institut de diplomatie publique



Introduction:

Every year, on May 28, we celebrate World Menstrual Hygiene Day, a time to spotlight the importance of menstrual health.

Menstruation also known as period, is a natural biological process experienced by females, it is a part of a menstrual cycle involving the shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) through the vagina. Menstruation involves proper hygiene, check-up where necessary and a balanced nutrition. Here in Africa our culture and practices also have a twist to Menstruation as some other cultures do. Often times women are stigmatized, shamed and mocked over a natural biological flow that brings balance to reproduction. This is as a result of misinformation. Proper information, education and open discussion have become vital for promoting the menstrual health of the African women, helping her break and taboos, still find relevance in society. African Women Mentoring and Inspiring Initiative in her mission to empower African women on their journey to self-discovery, engages with communities, churches, schools, marketplaces, and corporate organizations where women await positive impact in Africa by providing free sanitary pads, promoting proper use, and disposal, alongside other activities.

This article is borne out of real- life experiences and focuses on the challenges faced by women during their menstrual period.


Challenges Faced:

Menstruation, a natural biological process, poses significant challenges for women and girls worldwide especially in African due to the lack of access to affordable and hygienic menstrual products. This issue is particularly acute in low-income communities, where managing menstrual hygiene not only affects physical health but also impacts education, dignity, and overall quality of life. The high cost of sanitary pads in Africa has created barriers for many girls and women, leading to resorting to unhygienic practices with potential health risks such as cutting old clothes or rags into pieces, sprinkling water on old newspapers, leaves, and tissues, or staying at home and sitting in a bucket for a long period. These unhygienic practices expose them to a higher risk of infections and reproductive health issues in future. The menstrual period also contributes to the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and stigmatization. Some of these women and girls do not also have undies (pants), especially during their periodic flow.


Solution and Empowerment:

There is the need to go beyond just educating on menstrual health and hygiene; debunking myths and empowering girls and women. There is a clarion call to producing and using sanitary towels made from local materials, promoting sustainability in menstrual hygiene practices.



Emphasizing reusable sanitary towels as a practical solution for women and girls in rural area who do not have access to sanitary pads due to the cost of living in Africa; families find it difficult to feed hence padding is considered luxury.


Advocacy and Support:

It is vital to address the barriers that hinder women and girls from accessing menstrual products and information, as these barriers directly impact health, education, and overall well-being. Through collaborative efforts with the government and corporation organizations, we advocate for reducing the cost of sanitary pads and ensuring their accessibility through subsidies or free distribution in public schools, communities, markets, and places of worship.



Call to Action:

It is worthy to note that menstruation is a given, not a choice.

Together, we can champion inclusive practices, break the silence surrounding menstruation, eradicate stigmatization, and empower every woman and girl in Africa to manage her menstruation with dignity and pride.

Empowering women is not just essential; it is fundamental for societal progress and survival.





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