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Improving Menstrual Health Management for Adolescent Girls

“It is absolutely essential that everyone joins the conversation. We need your opinions, your strategies, your ideas, to be able to deliver better for the people of the world we must serve.”

These words of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres on UN Day 2019, inspired the approach of the UN Day celebration in The Gambia.

Answering to the Secretary General’s call, the UN family in The Gambia, led series of community engagements, geared towards bringing the UN to the people. This included a Menstrual Health Management Outreach, led by UNFPA The Gambia on 24 October 2019, in partnership with The Girls’ Agenda, targeting 300 adolescent girls at Soma Upper Basic school, in the Lower River Region of The Gambia.

In a world where girls and women are period shamed, where pad poverty is a daily lived experience, most school-going girls are left with the choice to stay out of school, during their periods. As a result of this reality, UNFPA The Gambia supported the provision of sanitary kits containing 5 reusable pads, 2 bars of soap, 3 underpants a school bag, to ensure that girls do not miss school as a result of their periods.

To ensure sustainability and a widespread of knowledge especially on taboo topics in The Gambia like mensuration and other sexual and reproductive health issues, the girls were introduced to menstrual health and hygiene discussions, to enable them take care of themselves and stay healthy.

Speaking to UNFPA, like most girls in The Gambia, the girls shared the challenges they encounter during their first periods and how limited information on the topic of mensuration from their parents or communities, have affected how they respond to these issues.

“We are pleased to have the UNFPA team here at our school, especially on an occasion that will help us understand our bodies and enable us manage our menstrual health and hygiene.”

These were the words of Abibatou Camara, Head Girl of the School, speaking on behalf of the girls.

On the path to building and ensuring a progressive society, the highlight of the Menstrual Hygiene Management Outreach, came from the adolescent boys in the school, who helped package the sanitary kits for distribution amongst their sisters. Surely, boys are taking up partnership and supporting their sisters to access vital reproductive health information and services.

This activity gave UNFPA the opportunity to meet with adolescent girls, as they are key to the work we do, listen to their concerns and discuss better ways to build a better and sustainable world where everyone can thrive.