As we continue to explore the work that My Period is Awesome is doing, Tatiana Sikwila has agreed to talk to us about her work in Namibia.
You are currently working for Women’s Action for Development (WAD), could you please explain what is the purpose of the organization?
Women’s Action for Development (WAD) has been empowering people, young and old, in the socio-economic and social upliftment fields of development for the past 26 years, with the explicit goal to complement the work of Government in its efforts to reduce poverty and unemployment, and to uphold its lofty principles of Good Governance and the Rule of Law in the country.
WAD is currently running a one year project with My Period is Awesome. Could you please explain to us what is the objective of this project?
To ensure that both girls and boys are educated on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) which in turn will reduce menstrual shame and harmful cultural practices.
Can you tell us about your campaign #taxfreeperiodnam?
We have observed that there is a great number of girls who cannot afford sanitary products and as a result they miss school during their periods. We therefore wish this campaign can contribute to having affordable sanitary products and ending period poverty. Under this campaign we are engaging a lot of stakeholders to participate in advocating for removal of VAT on the sanitary products. We have been circulating a petition for signatures which we will hand over to the government officials at the end of the campaign for them to address the issue at hand.
What would you believe is the most important item to consider when looking at menstrual health?
Affordability of sanitary products and a safe conducive environment for girls when they are menstruating (pad disposal bins, running water e.t.c.)
WAD is a member of the Menstrual Health Management sub-committee in the Ministry of Education in Namibia, could you please explain its mandate?
This committee was initially formed to focus on the issues affecting the girl child during menstruation but has since been expanded to include the boy child as well so that menstruation is not seen as a girl’s issue. Issues affecting girls during menstruation are discussed and initiatives are started to assist in addressing these issues for example pads donation campaigns for targeted schools e.t.c.
How would you describe the current knowledge and the perception of menstruation in Namibia? How does it differ from other places you have worked or interacted with?
In rural societies, menstruation is still viewed as a taboo and therefore it cannot be openly discussed. Awareness campaigns still have to be conducted in order to educate our elders, especially Tradition Leaders on the effects of menstrual shame on the girl child and get their support in creating a safe and conducive environment for the girls during their menstruation.
How has the Coronavirus impacted your projects in 2020?
Schools have been closed for extended periods and there were travel restrictions introduced, therefore we could not start any project activities that were targeted to the girls and boys in the schools since the project is not based in Windhoek where the project office is situated. The social media campaigns were however not interrupted because they do not require physical interaction with the targeted project beneficiaries.
What would you advise to any organization that would like to introduce MHM in their programs?
At times we tend to think that general knowledge is accessible to all, but you will be surprised that there is lack of education on issues relating to menstrual health. I therefore recommend that where possible it is important to include MHM in programs that are targeted to the girl child to ensure that the harmful cultural beliefs do not continue to negatively impact them.
Anything else you would like to add?
I appreciate the MPIA project because it has assisted us in identifying the gaps that are there in Menstrual Health Education. The Government Of Namibia can only do as much, therefore it is important for us as the partners to ensure that we assist in covering those gaps and create a safe menstrual environment for the girl child.