Parents warned of social norms jeopardising menstrual health campaigns

Parents warned of social norms jeopardising menstrual health campaigns

The South Sudan’s national ministry of general education and instruction is calling on parents and traditional leaders to end all retrogressive practices on the menstruation.

Speaking at a joint press conference yesterday during the commemoration of the International Menstrual Hygiene Day, the Director-General for Gender, Equity and Inclusive Education Esther Akumu, said there is a need for joint and collaborative advocacy towards making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030.

According to Akumu, harmful sociocultural norms, stigma, misconceptions and taboos around menstruation continue to lead to exclusion and discrimination of women and girls.

“The stigma and shame generated by stereotypes around menstruation have severe impacts on all aspects of women and girls, including their rights to equality, health, water and sanitation, education, work, freedom of religion or belief, safe and healthy working conditions, and to take part in cultural and public life without discrimination,” Akumu said.

The director-general stated that unlimited resources should be made available to end poverty, improve livelihood, increase school retention, and promote proper menstrual health for every girl and woman.

“If we all come together to accelerate action in normalising menstruation in South Sudan, we shall have a country where no girl or woman is shamed, discriminated, assaulted, stigmatised, forcefully married and isolated just because they menstruate,” she stated.

She added the need to ensure a situation where insecurity, climatic conditions, or poverty can hinder access to safe and affordable sanitary products.

Meanwhile, Amok Maker, a student from Juba’s Bright Boma Secondary School, who represented the girls, lamented that girls and women always face a number of challenges in managing their menstruation health.

Maker said they have been silenced and cannot openly speak over the matter due to social norms. 

 “We girls have been experiencing hardship in accessing affordable pads due to higher prices of sanitary products caused by the ever-rising economy, leading to some of us missing school and poorly managing our menstruation,” she said.

“This makes girls resort to using unhygienic products for collecting period blood that causes infections.”

She highlighted the limited provisions of free sanitary pads with no proper washrooms for hygiene upkeep during menstruation.

“Many of my fellow friends got unintended pregnancy due to lack of information on menstruation which in most cases our parents do not educate us nor the schools,” she said.

She continued that most girls are often pulled out of school and forced into child marriage just after seeing their first period.

 “Their bodies are not yet well developed or built for child delivery, leaving [them] to suffer from fistula and end up being neglected by family members and spouses [and this leads to] increased mental health issues.”

She called on the traditional leaders to end the open celebration of first menstruation, saying this often exposes girls to men who act like predators.

“This celebration is just to sell girls for marriage while they are still young. The government must enforce laws to protect girls and criminalize child marriage,” Maker said.