When taboos become issues for open discussion
This week I had an opportunity to attend a reproductive health review meeting that was looking specifically at the performance of various services in the year 2022.
In the meeting I realised that there is so much that is taking place in this country with different agencies seeking to make a difference.
In the process the organisations seek to improve not only the health of women, but of all the people.
During the meeting, various presentations were done.
Reproductive health is a broad subject with many off shoots. So I sat in there and basked in the amount of knowledge and information that was shared.
When I thought that I had heard amazing facts and activities being done in the country, more amazing activities would be shared.
In the two days I benefitted a lot. The thing about what one learns is that it becomes part of individual referral points. When I am in such meetings I actively participate so as to fully benefit.
Then talk about menstrual health management began. I am sure you can picture me sitting straight up in the meeting with eyes wide open and my ears all up to hear making sure that I would not miss out on anything.
If any part of my body itched during the MHM sessions, I did not feel the itchiness! If my spectacles had any dust, I could see clearly the presentations, seeing clearly past the dust! Amazing is it not.
I remember my traumatised pre-teenage years and I wonder how it could have been different if there was such an influx of information.
Maybe there was information regarding menstruation during that time and the only challenge was my path and the path that was loaded with information did not meet
Or maybe the ones who received the information did not share with others. Maybe this maybe that. Just too many maybes.
To think that there are whole organisations whose mandate is menstruation boggles the mind. There are men and women who are working passionately in these organisations to change girls` menstrual journeys.
This needs to be applauded. Where silence prevailed, voices have been amplified. Young girls can freely share what they are facing and in the process get support from other girls and the organisations.
The fact that there are sessions to talk about menstruation is a great start. We may not be there totally, but I am encouraged by how the whole issue is being rolled out.
Young people today do not look at menstruation the way I looked at it. It was a shhhh issue in my time, now it is an issue that can be discussed the same way career goals are discussed!
There are efforts to provide a minimal MHM package understanding that menstruation is not just about sanitary pads but also about the underwear and the requirements that include water, soap and disposal.
A long time ago, this issue was relegated to a women`s issue to be discussed behind closed doors.
In this meeting it was openly discussed and there were suggestions from both males and females regarding how services can be improved.
When we were discussing how under wear should be considered a critical component of MHM I could only take a walk down memory lane.
When we were growing up, it was considered taboo to hang out your underwear on the clothes line outside for all to see.
If you wanted to hang it outside, it meant that you had to find something to cover it so that people would not see that it was the underwear.
Even the underwear laces were not to be seen!
So growing up I would put my panty on the line and then faster than lightning cover it with a towel. I have stayed in basically all the regions of Zimbabwe, the temperatures vary according to region.
So depending on the region and the time I would have bathed, the results from that underwear hanging to dry activity varied.
What also contributed was how thick the underwear was.
Those who are old as I am can relate that there was some heavy underwear in our time. The Ama2000s generation are totally clueless in this area!
Add to the thickness the myth that older women had that underwear that was too light would allow lots of air into the body and cause other health problems that include ngubane or just simply mhepo, wind!
On rainy days when my very thick underwear did not dry on some days I simply wore my almost dry underwear. It was not comfortable at all. I am sure that everyone knows the hustle of having few pieces of underwear in the cold or rainy season, the struggle is real!
My totally female environment high schools were excellent when it came to hanging our underwear on the clothes line.
Actually, it was a daily must do activity and then there was no covering. It was basically show time! With each term I learnt that there were trends in underwear that I did not know of.
There was striped, dotted, floral, plain, laces abound, big, small and in basically all the shapes that we learnt in primary school!
So for me discussing the importance of getting adolescent girls underwear in a national meeting was of great importance.
The question was raised: “If the girls do not have underwear, how are they going to use the sanitary ware that is being distributed?”
If the underwear issue is not addressed, there can be a repeat of a childhood memory, a lump of snowy cotton wool with a big spot of blood on a netball pitch.
It is wonderful that there are many organisations willing to spare girls from such embarrassment.
During the course of the meeting I would just look around the conference room and smile. We were brave enough to discuss what had been taboo.