Menstruation is a serious public health issue, particularly among schoolgirls in the Global South.
Social and cultural barriers typically limit women and girls’ knowledge of menstruation, resulting in girls being unprepared for menarche, embarrassment, the spread of misinformation, increased school absences, early pregnancies, school dropouts, and preventable health issues, such as UTIs. Low-resource environments lack the WASH infrastructure and access to feminine hygiene materials needed to manage menstruation properly. For Tanzanian girls, managing menstruation on school grounds poses a serious challenge due to broken bathrooms, lack of water, and the inaccessibility of sanitary materials.
In 2021 Maji Safi Group conducted a base survey in 13 schools in the Mara Region and found the following:
School WASH (SWASH) Program
To combat these problems, Maji Safi Group started a School WASH (SWASH) Program based on participatory methods and a community-wide holistic approach where our Community Health Educators teach Menstrual Hygiene Health (MHH) and help teachers, students, and parents establish School Health Clubs. Since 2014, this program has been successful in breaking the silence surrounding menstruation, increasing schoolgirls’ knowledge of MHH, and giving them the freedom to choose the best sanitary materials for their individual comfort and needs. Options include reusable pads, menstrual cups, and period panties.
We are proud of the impact we have made in rural Tanzanian communities. Since the beginning, we have reached over 26,000 women and girls with education and sanitary materials, and from breaking the silence surrounding MHH, we have seen a significant change of attitude in local communities. We are now expanding our MHH and School Health Club model beyond the Rorya District to include new districts in the Mara Region.
We believe that collaboration and community participation increase the success of our programs. We therefore prioritize partnerships and collaborative work with a wide range of public and private stakeholders. We are especially working closely with district and regional authorities, advocating for more government resources and collaboration to create profound systemic change through regional and national policy. In addition, MSG is the Lake Zone Coordinator of the Tanzania Water and Sanitation Network (TAWASANET) and a founding member of the Tanzanian Menstrual Hygiene Task Force. In this capacity, MSG has played a significant role in advocating for ministry-level inclusion of menstrual cups in programming and the development and implementation of the first nationwide, government-led assessment of the MHH situation in schools.
While these stakeholders are also working with complementary projects, MSG is the only organization in the Mara Region addressing WASH and MHH using participatory methods and capitalizing on local knowledge to spread health education. Our model empowers people to be changemakers in their personal lives and their communities’ public health situation.