One of the resolutions taken at the 17th National Students Congress by the Namibian National Students Organisation (NANSO) is that the Ministry of Basic Education, Arts and Culture must issue an immediate directive calling on all schools to have fully-functioning and adequately-equipped sanitary towel dispensers. This resolution is a response to the prevalence of period poverty in Namibia; a circumstance that is known to cause high rates of absenteeism and school drop-out among female learners.
Period poverty is defined as the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management tools. Considered a global crisis, period poverty affects the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of girls and women, and prevents them from accessing their human right to dignity. In societies where it is most common, it is known to also come with increased period stigma, and in the Ohangwena region, this is the case in many schools.
School-going girls in the region testify that, because they cannot afford sanitary pads, painkillers and/or clean underwear, they are forced to miss school during their menstrual cycles. They also say that the pervasive stigma prevents them from asking for help. Without access to sanitary products or assistance, and in the face of poor toilet and sanitation facilities at schools, school-going girls rarely have the confidence to manage their periods at schools.
Experts in the region say that girls in the region have inadequate information on period sanitation, including on which sanitary products are most suitable for which types of blood flow, the types of medication that works best for menstrual pain, and the possible health implications of poor period sanitation.
The Ohangwena Regional Executive Committee believes that it is time to renew and strengthen our efforts in ensuring that every girl has access to period sanitation. Menstruation is not yucky, nor is it disgusting. It is a normal bodily process, and it is time to ensure that every girl who bleeds, bleeds with dignity.
Pictured: Members of the Ohangwena Regional Executive Committee