Ensuring dignity for menstruating women and girls with disabilities in Tanzania

Managing menstruation can be difficult for anyone, but it is even more excruciating for girls and women with disabilities. How to manage their periods with dignity and without fear or prejudice and ensure that no one is left behind was brought front and centre to a three-day workshop on menstrual hygiene management. 
Aidan Tarimo
Woman washing hands

Attended by representatives from organizations under the auspices of the Tanzania Federation of Disabled People’s Organizations (SHIVYAWATA), the School Quality Assessment Office, teachers supporting people living with disabilities (PLWD), the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elder and Children, the purpose of the event was to provide adequate knowledge and skills to break sociocultural barriers among PLWD and advocate for their right to live with dignity.

Fatuma Mahadi, Vice-Chairperson for the Parents Association of Children with Disabilities, said the training was organized to help parents prepare their daughters with disabilities to embrace their periods without fear.

“We have learnt a lot of things about menstrual hygiene management. If all parents were here, they would have learnt how to prepare their children, but they are not, and I am here. I have the duty to go and share with them all that I have learnt,” she said.

The workshop covered three principal areas: first, how to break the silence around menstruation and menstrual hygiene; second, the different options available for managing periods; and thirdly, safe methods of disposal.

Participants at a workshop in Tanzania

Participants were also trained on human rights that were related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), gender and WASH, and the concepts of equality and non-discrimination.

The attendees were also divided into groups to share their experiences faced with challenges and best practices encountered as people with disabilities were trying to access WASH services.

During the last day of the workshop, participants developed different interventions which will later be transformed into a work plan that will guide participants as the core group in implementing MHM interventions among PLWD.

“No one can tell their stories better than they can. That’s why we trained champions and influencers among PLWD to work with other stakeholders in facilitating policy advocacy and promoting inclusion of their needs in policy documents, laws, designs and infrastructures,” said Rahel Stephen, MHM Trainer and Programme Coordinator with the Sanitation and Hygiene Programme in Tanzania (UMATA).