Break the Silence - Girl's Voice
Educating 100 young girls on Menstrual Health Management and challenging menstrual related stigma and discrimination with their parents, teachers and communities in Bahar Colony and Youhanabad in 2 Christian schools of Lahore, Pakistan
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Globally, approximately 52% of the female population (26% of the total population) is of reproductive age. Most of these women and girls will menstruate each month for between two and seven days. Menstruation is an integral and normal part of human life, indeed of human existence, and menstrual hygiene is fundamental to the dignity and well being of women and girls and an important part of the basic hygiene, sanitation and reproductive health services to which every woman and girl has a right.
However, menstruation is too often taboo, and has many negative cultural attitudes associated with it, including the idea that menstruating women and girls are ‘contaminated’, ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’. Menstruating women and girls are forced into seclusion, suffer reduced mobility and dietary restrictions, and can be prevented, through cultural norms, from participating in daily activities. Despite, or perhaps because of this, menstrual hygiene has been routinely ignored by professionals in the water sector, and in the health and education sectors too.
According to the Human Rights Council report drew attention that without a safe, private space, with adequate facilities for washing the body, menstrual materials and clothing, women and girls face difficulties going about their daily lives. The lack of privacy and the necessary infrastructure for cleaning and washing, the fear of staining and smelling, and the lack of hygiene in school toilets are major reasons for being absent from school during menstruation and have a negative impact on girls’right to education.
Unfortunately, the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation makes finding solutions for menstrual hygiene management is a low priority. This is often reinforced by the fact that women and girls are not seen as priorities for politicians.
Menstrual hygiene needs to be tackled comprehensively and contextually, to give young girls and women the confidence and space to voice their need for improved menstrual hygiene. Menstrual hygiene management needs to be integrated into programs and policies across key sectors including WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), reproductive health, emergency, education and rights, from community to global levels. Due to the courage and innovation of individuals, schools and organisations that have done pioneering work on menstrual hygiene is increasing and growing interest and knowledge.
Ecumenical Commission for Human Development is strongly belief that the proposed idea will brings together, for the first time, accurate, straightforward, non-judgmental knowledge and practice on menstrual hygiene programming with minority young girls and women to encourage for their development and promotion of menstrual hygiene will be an indirect support to gender equality, national development, high literacy rate and sustainable development goals accomplishment.
2. Project Goal
Educating of 100 young girls on Menstrual Health Management through arts in 2 Christian schools and challenging menstrual related stigma and discrimination with their parents, teachers and other community stakeholders in Bahar Colony and Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan.
3. Project Objective
The objective of this project is to use arts (drawing, poetry and music) to help 100 adolescent girls in 2 Christian schools gain basic knowledge on menstrual health management and sexual reproductive health rights and address the stigma and taboos surrounding those topics in their community through an advocacy campaign towards their parents, teachers and other community stakeholders within a period of one year in two project sites in Lahore.
The project will be implemented in two union councils of Bahar Colony and Youhanabad, major Christian settings in Pakistan. Menstruation and sex are taboo subjects. From our experience of over 8 years of work with girls, 4 girls out of 5 have never heard about menstruation when they have their first menses. First menses surprise them; they are ashamed, feel that something is wrong when they see blood for the 1<sup>st</sup> time. It’s a humiliating experience, they don’t know what to do/what to use. Some use dirty papers, old rags. The project is needed to provide information about menstrual health management and sexual reproductive health and rights to adolescent girls (8-13 years), engage their parents, teachers and other community members to break the stigma around menstruation.
The creation of 2 safe discussions spaces in 2 schools (the girls clubs) where we will use arts to share information and encourage peer to peer discussions among 100 adolescent girls on menstrual health management during 12 months. Girls will be able to increase their knowledge and confidence on sexuality, a subject considered taboo in their community. Working with schools, teachers, parents and local government stakeholders on the education of girls on menstrual health management will also build grounded knowledge for a change of behaviors to strengthen their contributions to gender equality and advance girls rights. The activities will be as follow:
a). Form 2 schools to educate 100 girls on menstrual health management through arts during 12 months. We will facilitate 18 sessions with girls and we will use dance, poems and drawings to pass information on menstrual health management to encourage peer to peer discussions and support girls decision making on sexual reproductive health, rights and menstrual health management.
b). Advocate at the level of key local stakeholders to engage discussions that can challenge the stigma attached to menstrual health management and discrimination: organize 4 meetings with the 2 Parents Teachers Associations (1 quarterly meeting - 2 meeting in each school). A part from the parents (about 100 parents are members of the PTA in the 2 schools), and 40 teachers in the 2 schools, we will invite 10 stakeholders to the meetings: 3 nurses and 1 medical doctor, 6 government officials from the Ministry of Primary Health Care and Ministry of Women Development. We will provide secretarial support and follow-up to ensure that resolutions taken during meetings are implemented.
- 2 clubs of girls created and functional in 2 schools with an enrollment of at least 100 girls (aged 8-13 years) who have comprehensive information about menstrual health management and discuss it openly with their peers in school and at home after 12 months.
- 4 Parent Teacher Association meetings facilitated in 2 schools with 40 teachers, 100 parents and 10 local government officials invited.
- 40 teachers & 10 local government officials are aware of challenges girls face during menstruation and facilitate menstrual health management among female students in a safe and dignified manner. There is an evidence of commitment at government and school authorities’ level; they publicly endorse the menstrual health management campaign through intervening in social media networks.