Menstrual hygiene is a topic that is not openly discussed in Zambia due to myths and misconceptions surrounding the matter. The situation is gradually changing due to ongoing programs.
In Zambia, a large number of men and boys have incorrect information about menstruation that they use to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against younger women and girls.
It is against this backdrop that Mwinji Nakamba, an entrepreneur based in Zambia’s capital Lusaka has invested in male participation in ending stigma and discrimination associated with menstruation.
Nakamba, 26, founder of Wastemat, a Zambian company that makes reusable sanitary pads has, since June this year been running sensitization programs on menstrual hygiene targeting men and school-boys.
The programs are being carried out in learning institutions within Lusaka and on various media platforms.
“The aim is to make men and boys understand that menstruation is a normal thing among adolescent girls and women of childbearing age. Stigma associated with periods can erode women and girls’ confidence and cause them to miss out on many opportunities in life,” she explained in a recent interview.
According to Nakamba, having men play an active role in countering myths and misconceptions around menstruation would ensure increased access to sanitary pads and other support that women and girls need to maintain good menstrual hygiene.
“It would also enable learning spaces to be more girl friendly. Girls will be free to participate in activities at school and other settings. They will not have to worry about being discriminated against just because they have their periods,” she stated.
Nakamba further revealed that that through the sensitization programs, a significant number of men and boys are beginning to understand that menstruation is not a disease and that having a period does not stop women and girls from going about their daily normal activities.
“It is good to note that men are now able to engage women and girls in conversations about access to sanitary pads. This is a great milestone with regard to ending menstrual poverty in Zambia,” she said.
According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, one in 10 girls of school-going age in Africa misses school or drops out altogether during their menstrual cycle. Many young girls from low-income families are unable to buy what their better-off peers consider as basic essentials. As a result, they are missing significant amounts of schooling every month.