Mozambican girls fight menstrual taboos

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Taboos on menstrual cycles among girls have hampered their educational growth in Mozambique.

Most of the girls especially from humble backgrounds are unable to fully attend their classes due to the fact that the personal hygiene effects are expensive and at times not available in various rural stores and health facilities.

For instance, a 14-year-old Ester João missed 198 classes, almost a third of the school year 2019/20, because of the taboo on menstruation.

“In 2019 I had my period and I was out of school for many days. In 2020 and 2021 I started to do the menstrual pad by myself,” João revealed.

According to various taboos - which change from region to region - a girl during her menstrual period cannot go to public places or even lean against colleagues who are not in her condition.

The woman cannot put salt in her meals and in some places she cannot even cook them, so as not to cause hernias for men.

Another belief is that menstrual blood, besides being used for satanic rituals, when it is seen by men can take away a woman's ability to become pregnant or have a husband, which is seen as the main reason for the withdrawal of adolescent girls from schools during menstruation.

Some girls resort to using rags torn from their dresses as pads. This has made them be mocked and isolated.

A non-governmental organization Save The Children is trying to produce reusable pads, made from capulana - traditional African fabric bath towels and sewn by hand with needle and thread.

“I make these pads because some people can afford to buy them in the market but some people cannot. So I teach girls to teach their friends,” Lucia Beca, sewing instructor said.

The program teaches girls how to sew their own dressings, with the help of tutors and nurses who talk about hygiene and teach the production of dressings to other girls in their villages.

“Mothers no longer have the time to sit with their daughters and give that training. But we are reactivating with the communities and with the activist teams to be able to do that work in their communities. And also with the teachers in the schools, to teach their pupils,” Julieta Dzingua, District Health Director said.

In the past two years, the program, which runs until 2023, has managed to teach sewing and retain 1,947 girls aged 12 to 24 in the four implementation districts: Manica, Macossa, Machaze, and Tambara.

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