United States and Zambia Promote Menstrual Hygiene Education to Keep Girls in School

Lusaka. May 28, 2014.

LUSAKA – The United States and Zambian governments, together with cooperating partners, private sector companies, and non-governmental organizations, are observing Menstrual Hygiene Day with the theme of “Let’s start the conversation.” Today’s event focuses on menstrual hygiene management and is intended to raise awareness about the challenges affecting the health and educational achievement of young women and girls in school.

In support of Menstrual Hygiene Day, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and three Zambian ministries – Education, Science, Vocational and Early Education; Gender and Child Development; and Local Government and Housing – together with public-private sector partners Pharmanova and YASH Pharmaceuticals, and the USAID-funded activity, SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene), are participating in two events. The first is a commemoration at Kabulonga Girls’ Secondary School to discuss menstrual hygiene management. The second event is an information-sharing forum on the use of school Water supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) data for policy, taking place at the U.S. Embassy.

“Poor menstrual hygiene is a challenge faced by half of the reproductive-aged girls in Zambia’s schools,” said USAID/Zambia Mission Director Dr. Susan K. Brems. “It not only affects a girl’s physical health and education, but also her social and mental well-being. Together, we can break the silence and start the conversation about good menstrual hygiene management that ensures women and girls manage their menses in a safe, private, and dignified way.”

Menstruation is still treated as taboo in many cultures and societies across the globe. A number of these taboos contribute to low school attendance among girls. By coordinating with the Zambian government to provide good menstrual hygiene management, stakeholders can play a fundamental part in breaking the silence and strengthening Zambia’s education, economy, and health as a result. Essential to this coordination is providing access to: accurate information; affordable hygienic materials; adequate WASH facilities; and safe disposal of used sanitary materials.

From 2011 to 2016, USAID is committing $20 million to improving WASH education in schools, thus ensuring that young women and reproductive-aged girls will enjoy a more promising future and healthier learning environment.