How Scholars are Challenging Period Stigma and Keeping Girls in School

Menstruation is a healthy and natural biological function—yet in many parts of the world, it’s seen as taboo or as something dirty. Misinformation fuels the stigmatization around menstruation and negatively impacts girls’ health, education, and livelihood opportunities.

Here we highlight five stories of Mastercard Foundation Scholars who share their experience, including the incredible work they are doing to address period stigma and keep girls in school.

Knowledge is Power

After witnessing how his young sister was impacted by the lack of education around menstruation, Mastercard Foundation scholar, Tumuhairwe Derrick, knew he had to empower youth. The mission is simple: Equip young people with skills that will help them to live a self-sustainable life even when they do not have a chance to finish school.

In 2016, Derrick alongside, Jovia Nazziwa, also a Mastercard Foundation Scholar alumni, formed Africa Well Able (AWA) with co-alumni from BRAC Uganda, the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), and graduates of the Jinja School of Nursing and Midwifery.

AWA helps break period stigma by going into schools and teaching girls and boys about menstruation: what it is, what it is not, and how to manage it. Derrick views this work as a form of medical care, protecting young people before they can become patients.

AWA teaches girls about proper hygiene while menstruating, and exercises to help relieve their discomfort. Both boys and girls learn how to sew reusable sanitary pads, that they can either use themselves or sell to make money. They provide menstruation hygiene management modules and age-appropriate sexual reproductive health education. AWA also offers career guidance, and entrepreneurship skills training all in a fun atmosphere to easily speak to youth.

AWA aims to provide over two million girls with sexual reproductive health education, with a focus on destigmatizing menstruation.

In this film produced for us by BBC StoryWorks Productions, we profile the incredible efforts of Derrick Tumuhairwe and Jovia Nazziwa, to educate students about menstruation and sexual reproductive health in Uganda.

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