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Male teachers educated on tackling menstrual stigma

Nairobi Women Hospital in collaboration with Young African Women Initiative (YAWI) have rolled out a programme to train Nakuru primary schools male teachers on promoting menstrual hygiene and health to help address menstrual stigma in schools.

According to YAWI Executive Director Ms Fidelis Wamboi, the   programme rolled out through Nairobi Women Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Center (NWHGRC) was concerned with empowering male teachers to fight menstrual stigma against female pupils in addition to promoting menstrual hygiene and health in their schools.

The Director said the move to educate male teachers seeks to fight the myth that men should remain ignorant about menstruation and provide them with the right information.

Ms Wamboi said the strategy of engaging and putting male teachers in the forefront to challenge the taboos around menstrual health will create a safe school environment for young girls.

The Director said the decision to educate the male teachers was informed by the fact that many girls were suffering from menstrual stigma, mainly caused by boys which male teachers are better placed to tackle.

Male teachers, according to Ms Wamboi should be able to help the girl-child experience menstrual period without feeling intimidated or ashamed of the natural process.

She added that by empowering male teachers on how to disseminate information accurately and effectively about the subject, it will be easier to break the notion particularly among boys that menstruation is taboo and in turn they will be able to support and empower their female schoolmates while in periods.

The program is also offering capacity enhancement to both male and female primary school teachers from the devolved unit on how to detect, respond and protect pupils against all forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as one way of creating a safe environment for learners in schools and promoting child protection.

“With children being the mirror of society, we need to create a culture in them that does not condone any form of violence. This culture should first be embraced at family level followed by school environment, where our teachers need to instill in children values that shun all forms of violence,” the Executive Director pointed out.

The over 50 beneficiaries of the training program are expected to form and be patrons of ‘Kings and Queens’ clubs in their respective schools that will train male and female pupils on menstrual health and hygiene, how to detect and report SGBV both at school and home and ways to protect themselves from SGBV.

Ms Wamboi said the culture of silence particularly among male teachers on menstruation severely impeded adolescent girls from accessing vital information about their bodies.

Ignorance and unpreparedness on puberty she added perpetuate myths, leaving girls vulnerable to shame, low self-esteem, and confusion when they first experience menstruation.

She affirmed that teachers including male ones are the people who are expected to support girls and women, and not ridicule them when they stain their clothes.

Ms Wamboi indicated that teachers of both genders are expected to provide information and identify safe menstrual management materials, among other responsibilities.

A Psychologist at the Nairobi Women Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Center David Kanyarandua said schools are perfectly positioned to create an environment of non-violence, tolerance and gender equality and teachers have a central role to play in this transformation, through their own actions and through the materials they teach.

Mr Kanyarandua stated that teachers should be trained to respond to violence in schools and encouraged teachers to allow each child to explore the field of morality and learn to differentiate between good and evil and to make the learners respond positively to their capacities be it in leadership or sports or any other calling.

He argued that in schools where the virtues classes were adopted the rates of violence, bullying, and even adolescent pregnancy had decreased.

According to the United Nations, one in 10 African school girls misses school during their menstruation, and many of them, studies show, have ended up dropping out of school altogether after lagging behind month in month out.

According to government data, only an estimated 46 per cent of women and girls in rural areas and 65 per cent in urban areas have access to and use disposable pads. Many use toilet paper, pieces of blanket or cloth, or natural materials to handle their menstruation.

By Esther Mwangi

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