The dusty road leading to Zvidozvevanhu Secondary is desolate and hard, it feels forgotten. The day, a long way in the planning was gradually unravelling before our eyes. We had come to the school to talk about menstrual health. We divided the students, the boys in one the room, the girls in another. This was a different group to our usual Mbare community where we hold many of our workshops and besides, it is not in our culture to talk about menstruation. Tinashe, Chido and Connie, our lead facilitators are used these differences, silence speaks volumes.
At first girls were shy; the room fell silent, they sunk their shoulders and waited for someone else to speak. Over time they became freer and more comfortable, they shared their views and experiences with their own menstrual health. Their values were shaped and to some extend bound by their culture. They said that older women had told them that once they started menstruating, they should not “play” with boys. They were not supposed to be touched by boys or to have sexual intercourse. The girls said the first time they started menstruating they were shy and embarrassed to tell their mothers or their female guardians. They did not know about menopause, they believed that women menstruated for their entire lives. Chipo from Days for Girls and Connie took time to talk to the girls about how to use sanitary pads, that one should wear sanitary pads for four hours and not the whole day. Together they demystified myths about menstruation and pregnancy.
In the other classroom Dr Tinashe and Dr Chido were running the boys group. The boys were instantly free and open to talk about menstrual health and body changes. They knew what menstruation was and the body changes that one undergoes during adolescence. The also had a lot of questions to ask about what girls went through during menstruation and about safe sex. The lessons they learnt were that:
- It is not alright to laugh at girls when they start menstruating.
- One should only wear one condom when having sexual intercourse.
- A person infected with HIV should use protection when having sexual intercourse to prevent spreading the virus.
- An unborn baby can be protected from contracting HIV from the mother by giving the unborn baby medication as well as the mother.
- It is important to know about menstruation so that boys can fully understand what girls go through.
Our partners had also provided donations of solar lamps, stationary and sanitary wear for all the students. These were handed over in a beautiful ceremony just outside the classrooms, and then it was time for lunch. There was lots to eat.
Thank you to our Community Champions for the support and for sharing your wealth of experiences. We are indebted to Dr Chido, Dr Tinashe and Connie for their selflessness and for sharing their knowledge and wisdom. Thank you to all who support our work.
Global Health Dorcas
June 2021 – All rights reserved.