Menstruation: Time to break the silence

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LAST month the world commemorated Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28) emphasising the need to break the silence and taboo that is associated with Menstrual Hygiene Management.
A survey conducted by The Patriot showed that very few people in the country took note of the day.
Interviews carried out reflected that most people were reluctant to talk about issues surrounding menstruation to the extent that some refused to have their names mentioned.
Many were of the opinion that such issues are discussed in privacy and strictly belong to the ‘world of women’.
It is surprising though that ‘menstruation’ also known in Shona as ‘kutevera mwedzi’ remains a no go area while taboos have been broken when it come to issues of sexual intercourse.
Tendai Nota from Harare says she learnt about monthly periods at school while doing Grade Five, but there has never been a day that her father bought sanitary pads for her.
“At school, staff from Johnson and Johnson would come and tell us what menstruation was and taught us how to handle ourselves when we started going to our monthly periods and the risk of having unplanned pregnancy and babies,” she said.
“At high school we were taught how to use sanitary pads and tampons.
“I never discussed menstruation with my mother.”
Marian Chombo (50) a staff member at Mashayamombe Training Centre in Mhondoro said as she grew up, the issue of menstruation was discussed as part of graduation into ‘womanhood ‘or adulthood.
Chombo says it was the role of aunties, schools or church to ensure that girls got the necessary knowledge.
In our days, our father would know because mother would tell him that “mwana akura” this would mean that the girl has started her monthly periods.
“I also did the same with my children and the menstruation issue was between the girl child and I,” she said.
“I never discussed such issues with the brothers and I feel that is how it should be. “Of course there are cases where the father is the one staying with the child, the girl child can just include sanitary towels on the grocery list, times are changing and probably in the near future such topics will be openly discussed.”
Friends, Potmus Jakata (23) and Byron Manuel (18) who attend Mt Hampden Vocational Training Centre concurred that they would never buy sanitary towels for their sisters, but maybe for their girlfriends.
“According to our culture it is not acceptable to share such intimate knowledge with your siblings, knowing when my sister is on her monthlies is like seeing her naked,” Jakata said.
ZANU PF Department of Gender and Culture Director, Cde Gumisiro Dhliwayo said it was against accepted traditional norms and values and the matter must remain in the women’s world like it has always been.
However, most men are aware of what is happening and many have bought sanitary pads when shopping with their wives or on grocery lists written by the daughters.
“As a father I am aware of the various stages that a child goes through I also know what adolescence comes with and I can buy the pads, but never will I discuss such issue with my daughter, that strictly remains a woman-to-woman talk,” said Cde Dhliwayo.
However, Mary Muchenje from Harare believes that enlightenment should enable men to talk about anything and at any platform and not be restricted because of culture.
“Times are changing and it’s high time to embrace that change, discussing anything with our children will make them not shun any topic and be responsible,” Muchenje said.
“Most boys laugh at girls when they mess up in schools or have a period cramp, this is so insensitive and children must understand what menstruation is.”

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