'I want to be the male champion for MHM for my school' - Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day!

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Plan International and partner, Live & Learn Environmental Education is working with Solomon Islands Ministry of Education, school principals, teachers and students to improve knowledge about menstrual hygiene and is improving access to WASH facilities for girls and teachers to manage their menstruation hygienically and with dignity. 

In one particular school in West Guadalcanal, the story began on Global Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), 28th May, 2019. Since that day, the Headmaster, Mr Matia became an enthusiastic advocate for MHM, prompted by the candid discussions and jovial atmosphere of a drama performance which highlighted the fundamental importance of enabling girls to manage their menstruation with pride. 

 

Above primary students in Solomon Islands discuss sanitary pad options during lessons on menstrual health. 

 

Since MH Day in 2019, Mr Matia has taken part in training for teachers on gender, social inclusion and menstrual hygiene management (MHM) delivered by Plan and Live & Learn staff as part of the Water for Women project’s WASH in Schools approach.  In the space of 12 months, Mr Matia has gone a long way to creating the supportive environment for girls that he believes in. The school now stocks sanitary pads to be sold at the school canteen, with emergency supplies made available at the school office. School toilet facilities were rehabilitated and bins are now provided in ablution blocks for safe disposal of pads.

 

I had some idea of what MHM was, but not until my school celebrated the Global Menstrual Hygiene Day [in 2019] that I fully understood the impacts it has on girls when in school.  I want to be the male champion for MHM for my school and I look forward to see all teachers in my school to be fully across MHM and to become strong MHM advocators. I also want my school to become a role model for other schools in how we support our girls and MHM” said Mr Matia (pictured above). 

 

The WASH in Schools guideline, including a teacher training on MHM, was developed by Plan international and Live & Learn through the Water for Women Fund 

 

A 12 year old student at Mr Matia’s school was really interested to learn more about MHM having reached menarche this year. She has been using disposable pads bought from local shops and when shown the reusable pads, she thought it was really neat to have a pad that can be washed multiple times and reused.

"I don’t have much knowledge about MHM products.  When I was first shown the reusable pads, I was really excited because the pad can be washed and reused multiple times; that it is safe and better than the cheap [disposable] pads I got from the shops.” (female student – Solomon Islands).  

 

A 12 year old male student at the school noted that when he was approached to participate in MHM activities, he was really shy. When grouped with his peers to discuss MHM, he said “all along I was taught that it was tambu [taboo] to talk about ‘girl’s sick’, but now that I know more about it, I will make sure that I will also spread the same message to my uncles and other male relatives so that they are also aware of it”.

 

“It is my first time to be involved in MHM talks.  I was fearful of touching the pads that were displayed because I was thought it was tambu [taboo] in my custom to touch something that girls will wear.  But now I am happy that I have learnt something.” (male student – Solomon Islands)

 

No longer are there embarrassed giggles when MHM is being discussed, and even boys in class are invited to see for themselves and learn how girls use reusable pads. Younger students learn by realizing all questions are good questions and Mr Matia does his very best to encourage all of his teachers to be MHM champions in their own classrooms as well. 

 

Visale Primary School will be joining Plan International and Live and Learn as well as millions of people around the world in celebrating MHM day 28th of May, 2020.

 

The 'New Times, New Targets' Project aims to improve sustainable and inclusive access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and facilities with schools, clinics and

communities in rural Solomon Islands. The project is an Australian aid initiative implemented by Plan International Australia in partnership with Live & Learn Environmental Education on behalf of the Australian Government.

All pictures by Plan Internatonal Australia and Live and Learn

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