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First of it's kind: a menstrual hygiene learning centre in Arusha.



Menstrual hygiene management at the Themi secondary school has not always been easy. The school, established in 2007, has over 1300 students, 695 of them being female and 36 of them living with disabilities.

 

We were not used to having talks specifically on menstrual hygiene except for what is included in the biology class [...] Open burning of used pads in the school was difficult especially during the rainy season [...] The students tasked with burning the pads felt like it was some kind of punishment.” Happiness Lihawa, Health teacher.

 

The school is among 62 secondary schools in Arusha city and now the first in the country to have a learning centre dedicated to menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health learning. The establishment of the menstrual hygiene learning centre came about through collaboration between SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, through the WASH SDG programme, and the Arusha City Council (ACC). Together, they recognised the menstrual hygiene learning gap in schools and therefore decided to do the following:  

 

-Create a model centre for schools across the city to learn about menstrual hygiene management.

-Promote and attract menstrual hygiene stakeholders to learn, invest and replicate MH interventions elsewhere, in the city and the country.

-Promote a safe space and platform for students to openly talk about and comfortably discuss menstrual hygiene management, thereby breaking existing taboos.


The learning centre consists of two major components:

 

1.    Transforming a classroom through painting menstrual hygiene drawings and messages under Mazingira Safi, Maisha Bora (MSMB), a sanitation and hygiene behaviour change campaign. For example “Just like a flower, menstruation requires being taken care of, therefore ensure proper disposal of pads, maintain cleanliness and hygiene, and be proud to menstruate”. The learning centre offers an opportunity for students and teachers to learn how to make their own re-usable pads, which are eco-friendlier and more affordable. The classroom is also equipped with samples of bins, MSMB sanitation posters and a range of menstrual hygiene products. To ensure sustainability, SNV and ACC partnered with Our kids In Africa (OKIA), an NGO with extensive experience on menstrual hygiene, re-usable pad making, and reproductive health training.



The students, both boys and girls, have shown real excitement and enthusiasm to learn, even though this was quite new to them, they took it wholeheartedly which is very encouraging” Catherine Lobulu, Trainer from OKIA Tanzania (okiatanzaniaorg.)

 

2.    Transforming a toilet block to a big enough changing room, equipped with hanging hooks, a bench, and a connected burning chamber for easier disposal, as well as an upgraded handwashing station.

 





We (Arusha City Council), recognise the increasing importance of acknowledging and prioritising menstrual hygiene management. The learning centre addresses taboos around menstruation and provides opportunity for the community to learn about affordable but safe re-usable pads that low-income communities can benefit from. We are aiming to have this replicated across the country and we already have students/organisations visiting the centre and being impressed with what we have done there”.

Allan Rushokana, National Sanitation Coordinator, Arusha City Council

 

As we celebrate 10 years of menstrualhygieneday, we call upon local government, partners in sanitation, teachers, students, and parents to make menstrual hygiene a crucial part of life and learning, and to embrace it, to ensure girls and women menstruating feel heard and comfortable but also proud of their period.




 


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