Erongo gets sanitary pads

By Maria Kandjungu

ECO SANITARY Trading Company recently donated sanitary pads, hand sanitizers and digital thermometers to destitute community members in the Erongo region.

The donations worth N$45 000 also included sanitary foot dispensers and  were handed over by Eco Sanitary founder Naomi Kefas during the Menstrual Health Hygiene day event held in Karibib last week.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day celebrated worldwide on May 28, to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management and the important role it plays in improving the wellbeing of women and girls.

According to Kefas, the organisation itself and donations are driven by statistics that show that about 29 percent of schoolgirls, especially in developing countries, have reportedly missed school on days when they are having their menses. Statistics also show that about 30 percent of women operating in informal businesses especially at open markets reportedly do not open their business on days that they are having menstruation as it is considered a taboo to trade and come into contact with other people, during their menstruation period.

She added that menstrual hygiene management can be particularly challenging for girls and women in developing countries, where clean water and toilet facilities are often inadequate and where traditional cultures make it difficult to discuss menstruation openly.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic the current situation is even worse, whereby families are struggling to put food on their table and will forgo purchasing of sanitary pads and buy food instead. This donation made by various donors will greatly make an impact in the Erongo Region community,” Kefas said adding that;

“It is also a fact that lack of access to sanitary pads results in the girls using old cloths, rags, mattresses pieces which generally affect the health and mental well-being of a girl at school. This has seen these kids miss school to avoid the embarrassing situation. Lack of knowledge and inadequate facilities leads to girls missing out on learning, and sometimes resulting in dropping out of school during menstruation, hence the Girls’ & Women Hygiene Day is celebrated to show commitment of government, partner agencies, to enhance the rights of girls and women and reduce inequalities in our society.”

The donations were received by Erongo regional governor Neville Andre and will benefit about 500 destitute girls and young women of the Erongo Region.

Speaking at the handover, Andre noted that Karibib where the event was held, is one of the places in the region where poverty still exists in parts of the community despite having Navachab Gold Mine in the town.

“Many young girls in Karibib, I am told are school drop-outs, in some cases heading their households and also making a living from entertaining truck drivers passing through the town.  Your intervention to the young girls and especially to the school going girls is indeed timely,” he said.

Andre added that women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management such as  water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, particularly in public places such as in schools and workplaces posing a major obstacle to women and girls.

He further pointed out that the lack of separate toilets with doors that can be safely closed, or the unavailability of means to dispose of used sanitary pads and water to wash their hands, especially means that women and girls face challenges in maintaining their menstrual hygiene in a private, safe and dignified manner.

“A growing body of evidence shows that girls’ inability to manage their menstrual hygiene in schools, results in school absenteeism, which in turn, has severe economic costs on their lives and on the country. The challenge menstruating girls and women face is often less than tangible than simply the availability of infrastructure, and is rooted in social norms and beliefs,” the governor noted.

According to him, given multiple challenges women and adolescent girls face, it is evident that promoting menstrual hygiene management is not only a sanitation matter; it is also an important step towards safeguarding the dignity; bodily integrity and overall life opportunities of women and girls.

He further called on local institutions to ensure they create the necessary frameworks to incorporate the issue of menstrual hygiene into all policies at schools, workplaces and public places to ensure that women get the dignity they deserve through adequate menstrual hygiene infrastructure.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day set to help break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.

The day aims to address the challenges and hardships many women and girls face during their menstruation and to highlight the positive and innovative solutions being taken to address these challenges while breaking the silence around periods and raise awareness of the importance for women and girls to hygienically manage their menstruation

The day also aims to catalyse a growing, global movement that recognises and supports girls’ and women’s rights and build partnerships on national and local level, to engage in policy dialogue and actively advocate for the integration of menstrual hygiene management into global, national and local policies and programmes.