By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon, Bor, South Sudan
In a bid to promote Menstrual Hygiene Management among young girls and women, ChildBride Solidarity (CBS), a women-led (WLO) national NGO that advocates for women empowerment, active participation and full representation in the socio-political and economic arenas of South Sudan, has embarked on Menstrual Hygiene Management trainings for girls in Jonglei state. In partnership with CARE International, ChildBride Solidarity (CBS) is implementing a multi-year Women’s Voice and Leadership (WVL) project to promote and enhance the voices and leadership of women and girls in Jonglei State, and South Sudan at large.
“Part of our project is aimed at enhancing gender rights for adolescent girls through distribution of sanitary pads and awareness training on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR),” said Ms. Amach Mayen, CBS project coordinator in Bor. At least about 80 girls have been reached in the areas of Bor town since last year while being provided with sanitation kits. This would empower young adolescent girls, according to the state’s Coordinator.
Ms. Mayen reiterated that the menstrual hygiene management was imperative since it is ignored in the post-disaster responses. “It is an essential aspect of hygiene for women and adolescent girls in and after the menstruation circles and this is why we want to promote,” she cited. “It can enable young girls to manage menstrual hygiene and sexual reproductive health. They were taught and we shared ideas on how best we can be able to manage those reproductive health issues,” Ms. Mayen concluded.
In the promotion of girls’ hygiene management, the organization provided sanitation items namely soaps and sanitary pads to help them facilitate the menstrual hygiene management.
Ms. Achol Bol, one of the beneficiaries said she now understands how to keep constant menstrual hygiene during the menstruation cycles after the trainings. She however cited that the items would help her to maintain high level of hygiene and sanitation throughout her life. Another beneficiary, Ms. Amer Majok, says the menstrual trainings have enlightened them on what they did not know in the past. “We interacted on issues that affect us such as GBV, early and forced marriages. And so now we understand how to report such cases,” she said.
CBS finance officer, Ms. Ruth Kwei explained: “The training program is aimed at ensuring girls have access to safe knowledge associated with hygienic menstrual products, services and facilities and ensuring that school age girls have knowledge on menstruation cycle, sign, and symptoms and how to lessen their impact on school attendance and performances; raising awareness against sexual transmitted disease and sexual related infections such UTI and to educate girls on preventive measures, and educating adolescent girls on sexual rights and how to practice them at school levels.”
Despite being an imperative issue facing women and girls in the menstruating age group, the Menstrual Hygiene is often overlooked in post-disaster responses. There is limited evidence of menstrual hygiene management in humanitarian settings, according to the research.
However, the intervention in Jonglei aims to describe the experiences and perceptions of women and adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene management. In the immediate and aftermath in the country, women and girls completely depended on the use of locally available resources as adsorbents during menstruation.
The organization implemented three main activities that are now making crucial contribution to women empowerment in Jonglei State. These include mentorship and coaching sessions that act as girls’ space where they share and speak freely on issues around early child and force marriage.
“The program objective is to empower and inspire young women and adolescent schoolgirls, build their self-confidence and strengthen their life dreams to become agents of positive change, envisaging and forging their own pathways in life,” said Ms. Amer Mayen Dhieu, CBS executive director. “Our mentoring and coaching sessions are conducted in confidential women friendly environment that stimulate their feminine growth and development,” Amer added.
Mentoring sessions taught the young girls preventive measures to tackle coercion into early child marriage and teenage pregnancy and SGBV. During the trainings, most girls reported challenges related to experiencing irregular menstruation cycle that last several months. “Some reported experiencing social bullying and exclusion particularly when their period come unprepared while some reported choosing to avoid classes due to social and physical discomfort associated with menstruation,” said Amer.
While women empowerment activities are changing lives of girls in Jonglei state, CBS has strengthened it capacity internally through capacity building for staff in most areas of organizational development. According to the Executive Director, the staffs have gained experiences and skills that allow them to manage to be employed by international organizations.
“Two of our staffs have been recruited by international organizations in Bor, and that is an integral part of CBS women empowerment for self-reliance and agency.” Amer emphasized.