What is MHM and why has Raleigh Tanzania chosen to teach it?
This cycle, Raleigh Tanzania has introduced the topic of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) to the SWASH curriculum. This was taught by our volunteers to female students in Standards six and seven (ages range from 12-14). Using the Tanzanian government guidelines and ‘Growth and Changes’ booklet published by UNICEF, Raleigh Tanzania devised four lessons aimed at providing adolescent girls with an understanding of the menstrual cycle, the physical effects it has on their bodies and how they can manage it in a comfortable and sanitary way whilst at school.
What is the current education on MHM?
After conducting a study with the women’s group of Difinga village, we learnt that there is currently no formal education on the topic of MHM in the local primary school. Typically, they told us that mothers wait until their daughter has started her menstrual cycle and then teach and instruct her on the process of menstruation and its practices. We also found that the topic of MHM is not openly spoken about in the village, which led us to anticipate potential problems in teaching MHM. However, the feedback from the meeting with the mothers of Difinga was very positive and they expressed their enthusiasm for the MHM room, telling us that they feel happy their daughters will now have a place to change whilst at school.
What do the lessons include?
To introduce this topic, we taught four lessons to girls in standard six and seven. They learned the basics about puberty, menstruation and what to do in order to keep clean and feel comfortable, particularly in school, during menstruation. The lessons included brainstorming on what they already know, ice breakers and games to help them open up to us. There were also discussions on various sanitary products and how to use them and in our last lesson we introduced the girls to the MHM room, explaining how to use it. Another aspect of these lessons was dispelling myths around menstruation as 1 in 5 female students in Difinga believed it was a disease.
Is it sustainable and what are the long-term goals?
Raleigh Tanzania’s long-term goal is to ensure adolescent girls in rural villages understand what menstruation is and how to use facilities such as the MHM room, thus encouraging girls to remain in school following puberty. We hosted a stakeholder meeting with the village with the aim of mobilising the community. Village elders, women and youth made pledges to continue to support and maintain this project after we leave. Also, at the end of our last MHM lesson, we handed out copies of the government approved Growth and Changes booklet for the girls to keep and continue learning from.