Menstruation is a monthly reality for billions of girls and women worldwide. Yet in many countries, they continue to face barriers when it comes to managing their periods. Misconceptions, stigma, and harmful gender norms around menstruation exacerbate challenges, and impact girls and women’s education, health, and dignity.

Menstrual hygiene is not just about having access to sanitary products. It encompasses a broad spectrum of issues, including education, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation. By listening to girls needs and understanding their menstrual hygiene practices, we can better support them to safely and confidently continue their education.

How does menstruation affect lives?

In Zambia, as elsewhere globally, girls and women’s daily lives are interrupted by menstruation. A lack of adequate facilities and materials, restrictions on girls’ movements during their period, and teasing, shaming or exclusion can contribute to girls missing school. These interruptions not only impact their access to education, but also their self-esteem and confidence to participate in everyday activities.

Menstruation is perceived, and managed, differently in different contexts. Students’ beliefs play a crucial role in how they manage menstrual hygiene. It’s essential that implementers listen to and understand these views and practices, and tailor interventions that target the specific barriers girls face in their context.

How does PEAS Zambia support girls?

At PEAS, we are committed to addressing the specific challenges girls in our context face, so they can continue their education and their lives without interruption. Our holistic approach focuses on creating inclusive, supportive learning environments for all girls, while providing access to the facilities they need to feel safe and dignified.

  • Gender-Responsive Education: We ensure our schools and classrooms are gender-responsive so girls feel safe and confident. We train teachers with the skills and pedagogies they need to create gender-responsive classrooms, where stereotypes are challenged, and all students are encouraged to participate.
  • Girls’ Clubs and Boys for Change Clubs: We facilitate student clubs that provide safe spaces for girls and boys to discuss sensitive gender-specific themes. Girls’ Clubs provide structured opportunities for girls to discuss menstrual health and puberty, and the taboos and stigma associated with menstruation. Our recently piloted Boys for Change Clubs provide a safe space for boys to discuss issues including puberty, gender equality and gender-based violence against girls and women. The clubs help boys to question and reject harmful norms of masculinity and challenge harmful gender stereotypes.
  • Segregated Facilities and Access to Products: We design and build our schools to be gender inclusive, ensuring appropriate facilities for girls. All our schools have safe and clean water sources with adequate handwashing facilities, segregated toilets, and appropriate sanitary and disposal facilities. Through support from partners, we provide access to menstrual hygiene products, and teach girls how to make reusable pads.
  • Community Engagement: We ensure strong community engagement to break the stigma around menstruation and support girls to stay in school. Our community sensitisation programs, supported by the Girls’ Clubs and Boys for Change Club members and community leaders, help to create a supportive and safe environment for girls.
  • Evidence-based support: By building a strong evidence base through regular surveys and data collection and monitoring, we measure the impact of our interventions on girls’ school attendance and health. This evidence helps inform our policies and practices to better support our students.

If you want to know more about how we support girls in school, you can read our Approach to Girls’ Inclusion here.

If you would like to support our work to empower adolescent girls, please contact partnerships@peas.org.uk.

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