Understanding the issues surrounding menstruation and the solutions that can be applied to the context you work in is key for success. Mandi Tembo is a passionate advocate and researcher in menstrual health. She was born in Zimbabwe and is currently pursuing her PhD (with the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Médicine) with a focus on menstrual health and adolescent sexual and reproductive health among Young women in Zimbabwe.
Could you please explain to us what you are currently researching?
I am currently conducting my PhD research in menstrual health and hygiene among young women in Zimbabwe. The main aim of my research work is to investigate the acceptability, uptake, and effectiveness of a comprehensive menstrual hygiene management (MHM) intervention, within a community-based sexual and reproductive health (SRH) program, among young women aged 16 – 24 years old in Zimbabwe
The MHM intervention includes: FREE access to MHM education, a bar of soap, a period-tracking diary, an MHM educational pamphlet, 2 pairs of underwear, and a choice of menstrual products between the menstrual cup or reusable pads.
We ran a pilot study to assess MHM intervention uptake and menstrual product choice among young women from April – July 2019.
Currently, we are running the main study and will be collecting qualitative and quantitative data (over a two year period) on the following :
- MHM product choice, use, and patterns of use over time
- Effects of the intervention on MHM knowledge, practices, and perceptions
- Acceptability of the MHM intervention among young women and the community
Pain management among young women over time
What are the main difficulties that you are facing?
Initially, some of our initial difficulties were in procurement of menstrual products and in information dissemination in the communities.
Fortunately, we have amazingly dedicated and passionate partners and donors that have facilitated product procurement and the development of appropriate MHM information and education communication tools.
More details can be found on our website: www.chiedza.co.zw
What made you decide to choose this subject?
I have always been passionate about women’s health. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor but decided to commit to public health and, more recently, community-based MHM interventions because I wanted to be intimately engaged with my research and the women I get to work with and for.
Menstrual health is people issue NOT a women’s issue. Good menstrual is human right and I am excited at the prospect of lending my voice and skills to the menstrual movement – being menstrual health to the forefront of public health conversations.
What are your initial findings?
Access to MHM products and information are unmet needs in Zimbabwe. Many young women struggle to find appropriate menstrual products. Young women also have limited access to timely and accurate MHM information, leaving them unprepared upon menarche and anxious or shy about periods in general. Young women also face stigma and shame around issues of menstruation and several myths and taboos around menstruation lead to isolation, teasing from peers, and restrictions from participating in activities in the private, public, and religious sectors.
Beyond provision, young women deserve informed menstrual product choice and access to pain management medication and information. Managing one’s menstruation is informed by several external factors such as economic, environmental, or sociocultural factors and anyone looking to implement MM interventions in Zimbabwe needs to consider these contextual factors.
What is the situation of Menstrual Health Management in Zimbabwe ?
MHM is a growing area of research and intervention in Zimbabwe. While we do not have any explicit policies regarding MHM, there a great deal of government interest and buy-in.
How has the Coronarivus impacted your research in 2020?
As a study, we had to pause business during the month of April due to the national lockdown. We resumed the study in May. In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, all study staff underwent extensive COVID-19 training and have been equipped with appropriate PPE
What would you advise to any organization that would like to introduce Mentrual Health Management into their programs?
Do it! And make sure you do your research beforehand. Where possible, collaborate with existing partners. Collaboration and innovation are key.
When will your research be finalized and how will we be able to find your thesis?
I hope to complete my PhD at the end of 2021. All of our ongoing work can be found on our website: www.chiedza.co.zw
You can also find curated Menstrual Health Management content on my website: www.thebleedread.com
Anything else you would like to add?
MHM is a bloody serious issue. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about it.
If you wish to contact Mandi for more information on her researches : Mandikudza.Tembo@lshtm.ac.uk