The Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), in partnership with Water Aid Uganda on 29th March 2018 hosted a full-day stakeholder’s meeting on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR). The meeting which took place in Kampala was held with the objective of increasing the profile of MHM and SRHR in schools through information sharing and learning to influence policies and strategies through a strategic multi-stakeholder response that will support MHM and SRHR in schools, to achieve sustainability of girls’ retention in schools.
As highlighted in the meeting’s objective, information sharing is central to tackling the challenges that women and especially girls face as we strive to reach the UN sustainable development goals specifically on gender equity, equality, and development.
One of Water Aid’s key interventions aimed at achieving its strategic goal as mentioned at this meeting is effective knowledge analysis and information to equip rights holders and duty bearers with information on water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), rights, roles, responsibilities, and obligations to create WASH demand and supply.
It was pointed out that this intervention can be achieved by;
- Carrying out and sharing research findings and studies on SRHR and MHM.
- Networking and lobbying to address funding gaps in research and WASH initiatives.
- Utilizing free media spaces including social media platforms, radio, and newspapers to disseminate information on MHM & SRHR.
- Advocating for policy initiatives and framework designs that encourage dissemination of information for all age groups.
- Engaging the private sector in information sharing campaigns, and research among other initiatives to benefit them but also so that they are able to manufacture and design solutions that are gender-sensitive and responsive.
- Scaling up the capacity building for teachers, parents, and other duty bearers.
- Strengthening monitoring and evaluation in schools on MHM and SRHR information dissemination and reception.
- Utilize Village Health Teams (VHT’s) to disseminate information on MHM & SRHR policies and initiatives that communities can benefit from.
- A harsh policy environment that limits the dissemination of vital information due to age appropriateness issues.
- Limited time and funding allocated to disseminate information on MHM and SRHR information in schools and to communities.
- Limited or no access to information on MHM and SRHR to persons with disabilities and stakeholders in rural areas.
- Poor coordination of stakeholders working in the areas of WASH, MHM & SRHR that occasionally sees duplication of information and learning activities.
- Carry out more research on WASH, MHM, and SRHR and for these to inform policy initiatives and policy framework design.
- More funding and partnerships at national, regional, and international levels on WASH, MHM & SRHR initiatives.
- Encourage an even greater space and enabling policy environment that allows for contributions from CSOs, NGOs, and the private sector among other stakeholders.
While these were highlighted as means of information sharing and future engagement strategies/ way forward, it was appreciated that there are a host of challenges that limit access to information on MHM and SRHR exist and should be addressed holistically. Some of these challenges through shared experiences as pointed out by participants include;
Even with these challenges, it was generally felt that the day’s proceedings, prior and future engagements are an opportunity for stakeholders to;
Granting these were a key part of the day’s deliberations, it was generally agreed that a lot has been done and a lot more still needs to be done to make information on MHM and SRHR accessible to all stakeholders including; students (both boys and girls), teenagers, the communities they live or come from, teachers, other duty bearers, the private sector among others. It is hoped that making information available will address the many challenges that girls face including the lack of gender-friendly facilities at school and negative attitudes towards menstrual hygiene that have contributed to girls missing out on approximately 11% of school time in Uganda. Ultimately access to information is an important aspect of development as it informs decisions in our day to day lives.