Sophia Grinvalds: “When we started out in 2009, we were less than a handful talking about this subject….menstruation! The stigma around it was that horrible. Look how far we’ve come now…it’s 2018 and we have representatives for populations cutting across Uganda, all in one place talking about menstruation freely, with no limits”!
This was the mood in Katonga Hall, at Hotel Africana, on the historic 25th day of May 2018, as over 200 of us, invited and concerned citizens converged together at the first ever National Menstrual Hygiene Matters Symposium!
Dddaaaammmnnnnnn, you might wonder where “we’ve been and what we’ve been doing all this while” but all I can say is that we have been arranging ourselves better, every year for an event of this size and magnitude.
I must tell you….the audience was well balanced, with majority of them being ladies! Apparently, this time around, many district representatives were invited to a meeting of this kind; something that they said doesn’t happen very often and they came from Kamuli, Adjumani, Tororo and Lira. We had student-representatives from schools as well; Entebbe Airforce Secondary School, that is, members of the civil-society organisation cutting across 20 institutions like Plan Uganda, SIMAVI NL, UYAHF, Water Aid, WASH Uganda, Reach A Hand Uganda, AFRI Pads, Trail Blazers, Days For Girls to mention but a few, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Sports, representatives of foreign embassies and dignitaries like Ireland, Netherlands among others…. This is something to celebrate about, right? At least, I believe so!
Incoming was the State Minister of Higher Education, Honourable J.C Muyingo, who happened to be the Chief Guest for the day, he made his rounds at the various exhibition stalls that were set outside Katonga Hall and he saluted them all in sheer admiration for the great effort invested in pulling it all off, to display the various menstruation products. Straight outta his mouth, “I’m so happy to see this large gathering today for menstruation. In the past, we never could gather around and speak for the girl-child, this vibrantly. I have been very impressed by the stalls that I walked across right outside. Many more people are opening up about this subject”. He emphasized the need for parents to keep supporting their girls keep in school by providing them with the menstrual products they need or require to keep them going. That way, Uganda shall be able to reap the best fruit of the current generation, when they’re older and in better position to steer the nation forward. When it came to the challenges being faced, as a country and a government in matters of menstrual products, he said this, “the cost and production of eco-friendly sanitary pads and their disposal is still a challenge in Uganda”. He called upon the private sector to team up with them and invests in mass production of sanitary pads and the incineration facilities, as well.
Honourable Akello Sylvia, Otuke district, gave us the kicker when she said that: “Menstruation is real, menstruation has been around. Menstruation is here to stay”. This one statement alone, got everyone clapping and cheering on to solid truth…that we must learn to live with, uncomfortable as it may seem or we have been taught to believe!
Aaaannnhhhaaaaa…we, the guys had to be schooled more today by various participants and presenters across various topics.
Various representatives of institutions in the civil-society to mention but a few AFRI Pads, UYAHF, Days For Girls, Water Aid, Trail Blazers came up front to present their research, thoughts, ideas and plans forward to the cause of having the best menstrual hygiene management of our young girls in Uganda today and henceforth.
Speaking of testimonies, we listened to one from Sandra, a Senior Woman teacher in Kamuli district: “I want to re-echo the vote of thanks that has gone to Plan Uganda for the tremendous efforts they’ve made to ensure we have our girls back in school, attending more classes and more comfortable while at school”.
To crown it all off, Fiona Daz led all the participants through an engaging exercise, where we all received sticker notes and all we had to do with them, was to walk around the room, reading on the different manilas, the respective areas of focus that we individually felt the Government of Uganda should target and direct their energies to, in as far matters of menstruation go and are concerned. Once all this was done, all these areas of focus would be turned in to the Government authorities for them to pick it up from there!
As you can see below, one end of the hall, had it’s manilas painted with the tiny notes.
Hhhhaaaaaa…..we made progress, we made history and we continue to be pro-menstrual healthy, right?
Ps. Did I tell you about the very edutaining skit that was performed by the students of Entebbe Air Force? Yyyooooo…you should contact the organisers or me, for that matter, to get you a video of it. Let me describe it for you (in very simple terms)…. “Creatively African, deeply focused on our ways with menstruation as Ugandans and leaving you yearning for more!”
Does it get any better than that?