WINDHOEK- Ashwell Wayne Forbes is a young Namibian, who is on a mission to promote sexual reproductive health and rights to adolescent and fellow young Namibians. “I have made it my conviction to stand for the girl that does not have a voice and that boy that can’t speak his feelings because he must act like a man,” Forbes told Youth Corner.
The tricenarian said the issue around menstruation is not about a gender battle. “It’s a dignity issue. Dignity is not confined by your gender norms but by the matter that you are a human being and this is a human rights issue even under the sustainable development goals of the UN,” he highlighted.
He noted that for a lot of people, getting a pad or having a pad is something simple like having lotion, for another vulnerable girl, a pad is a luxury that compromises her dignity. “We have seen statistics of a girl in the Kunene region that have committed suicide due to her periods coming and she was ridiculed about the blood on her skirt by school friends and even community boys,” said the disappointed Forbes.
“Due to this sad realities, we have started a national campaign called the Namibian free flow campaign that I chair and we also have Lucia Ipumbu, deputy minister of industrialisation, as the patron. The campaign aims to have a consolidated effort to assist young vulnerable girls in hard to reach areas with dignity packs for them to complete their academic careers. The campaign aims for the empowerment of a young girl child through education and product delivery,” explained Forbes.
He started the Namibian Free Flow campaign to restore the dignity of the Namibian girl child through sanitary wear, and lead the advocacy for free sanitary pads in schools and hostels, during the process of free sanitary pads, they have requested the local government on tax-free sanitary pads for young vulnerable girls.
He said men (boyfriends, brothers, fathers and friends) need to get involved around the discussion of periods. “I have been questioned by many why I, as a man should stand for something that I have never and will never experience,” stated Forbes, saying he has made it his conviction in the past five years to speak for the adolescents.
Forbes said, “we live in a society that the only time most men hear about periods is when they want to have sex and the girls tell them that ‘it’s that time of the month’”. “We live in a society that girls have to sell themselves to an older man to merely buy toiletries.” This surely we can agree is an “our issue and not simply a girls only issue,” pointed out Forbes.
He further stated that a girl child who misses out five days a month and 60 days a year from school because she can’t afford a pad says a lot about Namibia as a nation. “There should be a collective effort to break the stigma against menstruation,” he said.