Stand Up tall and break the Taboo of Menstruation in Africa.

By Nelly Lukale, YWCA of Kenya

Unlike many believe, menstrual health is not just a ‘women’s issue’. We need to get people – boys and girls, men and women – to talk openly about menstrual health in every part of the world. Female hygiene should be at the top of each government’s list of priorities. In 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that ‘the greatest return comes from investing in girls and women. When they are educated, they drive development in their families, communities and nations. ‘Without access to toilets, sanitation facilities, menstrual pads and information, girls and women are unable to be the drivers of development they have the potential to be.nelly

While many governments and non-governmental organizations support several issues affecting girls and women in developing countries, menstrual hygiene management often gets overlooked. Millions of girls in sub-Saharan Africa do not attend school due to taboos and stigma related to menstruation. They do not have access to proper sanitary pads and instead they have to improvise with mattresses, blankets, newspaper, rugs or feathers. Using these devices instead of proper hygienic pads can cause severe health risks, such as infections in girls’ genitalia – but these devices are also ineffective and humiliating, often resulting in blood-stained uniforms leading to bullying from particularly male peers and even teachers. Many girls end up missing considerable amount of school, or at worst even dropping out, due to humiliation and stigma related to menstruation. In some cases, girls engage in transactional sex so that they can raise the money they need to buy sanitary towels, putting them at the risk of HIV and STI infection. Alternatively, young girls are forced to skip school during the time they experience monthly periods to avoid both the cost of pads or use of cloths. A girl absent from school due to menstruation for four days in a month loses 13 learning days, equivalent to two weeks of learning, in every school term.

With this high rate of school absenteeism, a girl literally becomes a “school dropout” while she is still attending school and in addition has to deal with emotional and psychological stress associated with menstruation.

Menstruation has become like a curse not only to African women and girls, but also to entire societies on the continent. Since menstruation is largely a private issue, the social damage is often hidden and rarely makes the news headlines. There are also cultural and social attitudes that render discussion of menstruation almost impossible especially between parents and their daughters. The need for affordable sanitary products for women and girls in Africa is a major public health issue that governments need to prioritize in their planning. They need to work together with civil society organizations and others to ensure that the appropriate services are made available, accessible and affordable.

Menstruation hygiene management is an urgent priority among women and girls, and essential products need to be made affordable also to the poorest, most marginalized and most remote girls and women.

Some African governments have made notable progress in the area of menstrual hygiene. For example, in Kenya the government dropped its import tax on female sanitary products in 2011 to help reduce costs by 18 per cent. African civil society organizations, NGOs and some UN bodies such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization have all publicly acknowledged that there is a significant link between the poor provision of menstrual hygiene solutions and low female participation in education. However, much more still remains to be done. Governments need to recognize that ensuring women’s and girls’ access to sanitary wear has not only positive public health implications, but implications on girls’ education and well-being on a much broader level. Educating girls also remains the single best policy for reducing fertility.

Prioritizing women’s and girls’ health in Africa, so girls can remain healthy, attend school and enter the work force, makes economic sense. Every woman and girl should be able to have access to the right products that enable them to take control over their menstruation. Access to water and sanitation is an internationally recognized human right, essential for protecting and realizing other basic rights – but yet this issue still receives far too little attention on both national and global levels. Improving girls’ access to proper menstruation products could lead to improved education, improved health and improve overall well-being of girls and women – but menstrual hygiene is not merely a women’s and girls’ issue. It’s an issue that can impact entire families, societies and countries, because when girls and women thrive, everyone benefits. It’s time to give this issue the attention it deserves.

Originally published by Huffington Post

Change is Possible

By Estefania Renzi and Silvina Gerbaldo, YWCA of Argentina

We Estefania Renzi and Silvina Gerbaldo are volunteers of YWCA Carlos Paz and Cordoba. We would like to thank YWCA of Argentina and former world president Mónica Zetzsche, for the opportunity argentinato participate in a training in the city of Buenos Aires, 800km from our city. This training made ​​us reflects on how to grow as committed people with our dreams, giving our best and also benefiting the YWCA with our future leadership.

Some of the things we learnt were:·

  • “The pursuit of happiness is within ourselves and we must learn to make the impossible possible.”·
  • “Our growth has cost but we can see the results along these days.”·
  • “To give of ourselves, however minimally, to another person can work miracles for those in need.”·
  • “We understand that happiness is achieved with the simplest and simple things and opportunities we face, we need to grasp them.”

We also thank Accionar Entrenamiento de Argentina for having taught us that one can leave their limitations and achieve their fondest dreams. With our message we want to encourage all those young girls who are daily struggling to find themselves, that you are not alone and that there is a movement that can support and sustain the achievement of your dearest dreams. Having shared this experience together, it has strengthened our friendship as YWCA sisters and made intergenerational leadership possible.

We look forward to sharing many more experiences together.


Palestine 12.8. – 10.10.14 – The first week in a foreign country

Elena Policante, young woman volunteer from Horyzon Switzerland (YMCA/YWCA Switzerland). Elena comes from Switzerland and is volunteering with the YWCA and YMCA movement in Palestine as part of a three month programme.

I think the first week in a foreign country is always special. You have to get used to many things like: language, culture, driving habits, temperatures and of course a lot of new people.

My first week was really diversified and interesting (maybe a little bit too much), which ended in a bad headache in the middle of the second week. But this is a luxury problem and I don’t want to complain about.

Except from a few questions and vicious looks, we didn’t have any problems at the airport. The flat was small but really comfortable. Who could complain if the supermarket, which is open until 1 pm., is right next to his house? ;) We were recognized as the “new neighbours” at our first walk through Beit Sahour.

Beit Sahour13.8

Ibrahim from the Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) showed us the office and drove us through Beit Sahour afterwards. He showed us the Alternative International Centre (AIC), the Alternative Tourist Group (ATG) and a house that got hit by a bomb from the Hamas.



We had already made the most important purchases in the evening and could thus enjoy a good breakfast on the second morning already. We walked to the JAI office, where we discussed our plans with Nidal. After that I went with Ibrahim to the YMCA, where I was scheduled throughout the week at the Rehabilitation Programme (REHAB). They introduced me to many different people and I could already accompany one of the field workers to four different clients. It was the first time I saw an Israeli watchtower and smelled the stink of the chemical water.

aida camo


At 8.30 am I started my day at the YMCA. I was able to accompany another field worker. It was my second time at the Aida Camp and I saw a black watchtower. Tower

It was burnt and destroyed by children from the camp. Afterwards we went do the Deheishah Camp. My head was totally full with new pictures and impressions. In the evening we went to the AIC and watched “Tears of Gaza”, a really impressive film!


Today, we did a little bit of tourism. At 9am we took the Taxi and drove to the Herodium, Salomons Pools and the Gate of Saint George. Afterwards we walked through Bethlehem and tasted some local delights including an array of various types of Hummus, Olives, Pita bread, Salad and other things. We also went to the Stars&Bucks, which is an amusing and delicious imitation of the well-known Starbucks. At the evening we went to the Sports Center to watch the final of a family soccer tournament. There were a lot of people around and even though we didn’t understand everything, it was really funny.


Today, I accompanied another field worker we went to a family in which the 14 year old son got shot by an Israeli soldier. Even though I didn’t understand a word, all the feelings in the room were really intense.

At the evening Markus and I went to the Singer Café in Beit Sahour and drank a Chai Latte and a Lemon Mint Juice. This is a really recommendable place; a good spot to debrief and reflect on the days events. The first week in Beit Sahour had already passed by.


I tried to sleep in but it didn’t work. I woke up at 8am because of the traffic and the sun. I went to the office. A driver brought us to the YWCA of Palestine in East-Jerusalem. We had a meeting with Mira, GS of the YWCA and Mayadah, Office Manager about the UNSCR 1325 conference in the end of September. After three hours of talking we went to the old city of Jerusalem. In the evening we went to the AIC, there was a lecture from Nurit Peled-Elhanan on the topic of “Palestinians in Israeli school books”. My head almost exploded with all the information and the realization of the level of propaganda but it was really interesting.


In the afternoon I accompanied one of the field workers into a village, which lies in between three settlements. Afterwards we went to the Al Azza Camp (the third Camp in one week). At the evening I got a bad headache. I wrote letters and lay around, hoping the headache would disappear. The next few days I spent in my bed, because of the headache.
I already saw a lot of things in those two weeks. There will still be a lot more to see in the next three months. Next week we will go to Jericho with the JAI office. A bit vacation =)

I think it’s important to take sufficient time to digest the information and always debrief with someone close.