For the first celebration of Menstrual Hygiene Day, a Djumbai was held through the theme: “Challenges and solutions in the management of menstrual hygiene in Guinea-Bissau.” Djumbai is a traditional way to discuss important issues in Guinea Bissau and is characterized by its open atmosphere and open exchange of opinion. A total of 87 guests participated, among them students, teachers and representatives of the Ministry of Education, staff from Ministry of Water, Ministry of Public Health, local and international NGOS.
The subject was passionately discussed for more than 3 hours and allowed to exchange about the experiences of girls, the challenges faced in terms of access to information (including the preparation of males and female teachers, mothers and fathers) access to Menstrual Hygiene management products and conditions to deal with the issue of menstruation. Based on the evidence that girls start late in school and that many are menstruation even though they are in third class was recommended to place earlier in the school curriculum to allow the issue of the menstrual cycle to be addressed in primary school.
Some brave students shared their experiences and difficulties felt at the time of first menstruation and in the management of their period at school.
Teachers also talked about their difficulties in addressing the issue of menstrual hygiene in classrooms because of the taboo and secrecy surrounding menstruation. Also, a majority of the teachers are male and due to the same taboos are not very familiar with the realities of dealing with menstruation. The Djumbai also served to again reiterate the results from the UNICEF funded study where it shows that 80% of girls have never had any teaching about puberty or about menstruation in the classroom. Over 83% of girls do not know the biological significance of menstruation and mostly have no knowledge about menstruation until their first menstruation occurs. UNICEF Guinea Bissau is introducing the three-star approach with focus on MHM issues.
During this month we also celebrate the Menstrual Hygiene Day in 30 schools holding the Djumbai girls’ club involving more than 400 young girls at schools.