Alpha 2: Menstruation – Being a Girl in Tanzania

12th December 2015

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In Endagikot, Alpha 2 has been working alongside project partner EADD and the local community to build a girl’s latrine block at the local primary school. Previously, the female students had no private place to go to the bathroom (boys and girls toilets were shared), and knew nothing of the ‘luxuries‘ of sanitation bin dispensers and the like. Simultaneously, we have been conducting lessons with the girls about puberty and menstruation. This experience has given us a new perspective on menstruation and the use of sanitary products.

Here in Tanzania, menstruation is rarely discussed at home or at school. The ‘taboo’ nature of the topic leaves young girls in the dark, not knowing what to expect when starting puberty. When girls get their first period, many feel as if they cannot tell their mothers or sisters out of fear of being punished. It is common for girls to withdraw from school because their latrines lack adequate sanitary facilities and privacy. This needs to change.

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As the recent outrage in Britain demonstrates, menstruation is hugely significant in a woman’s life. Perhaps we take for granted the minimal impact it has on our Westernised lives in comparison to the impact it has on girls here in Tanzania. Whereas, in our more developed societies, neat and nifty sanitary products are promoted publically and always readily available, in Tanzania this is not the case. During a girl’s time of the month, her daily routine changes completely. Access to adequate facilities is limited; at times it can be difficult to dispose of or wash sanitary products. Disposable sanitary products are expensive. Many women, and most girls at Endagikot Primary School, use cloth as an alternative to disposable products. Facilities to wash these cloths are scarce or non-existent. A girl’s health, dignity and education are put at risk as a consequence.

In the years to come, once Raleigh has left Endagikot and the project is complete, we hope that our work will have a lasting impact on the girls and the community. The new latrine block is to be fitted with a wash-room for cleaning and washing cloths, a shower room, sinks and mirrors, private cubicles with doors. As a result, we hope the girls will not have to skip school and thus realise their full potentials. In the meantime, it is worth reflecting on the fact that in Tanzania it is not tampons that are considered ‘luxuries’. It is female-only toilets, toilets with walls and doors for privacy, toilets with sanitation bin dispensers, toilets with hand-washing facilities – these are the minority and the ‘luxuries’ that are out of reach for so many.

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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Youth Economic Empowerment Tanzania