Apart from conversations on menstruation being dirty, there needs to be a discussion on period poverty in Namibia. May 28th was World Menstruation Day and not much was done in Namibia. Yes, there is a lot of period drives happening, perhaps in the city, but the most affected areas are the northern parts of Namibia; the very remote areas. I recently visited my home village, Onamwoolo in the Ohangwena region and honestly, there is a lot that still needs to be done for the girl child in terms of period awareness, the stigma around it and the assistance towards achieving a Namibia that fully caters for her.
The girls I spoke to did not really want to share their opinions because, while menstrual stigma causes women and girls to internalise feelings of shame, disgust and embarrassment at their own healthy bodies, the lack of access to products and guidance causes girls to drop out of school and to strive for fewer opportunities. The 17-year-old I spoke to said she sometimes uses cloths for her periods. In as much as this narrative has been exhausted, I feel it is not exhausted enough because girls are still living in poverty when it comes to their menstrual cycles. This is not something that comes once a year; it is a monthly thing. Without access to this basic need, embarrassment and the intense need to keep their periods a secret from everyone is top of the list. This is because menstrual talks are taboo conversations within black households; particularly the Owambo households. It’s also clear that the constant worry of leaking onto clothing is not simply a worry among girls, but leads to them dropping out of school.
Cases of women being unable to afford menstrual products or not having authority within the family unit to use the budget to buy products, has also been evident in the girl child in Namibia. Yet, with all that is said, it is to no avail. Cut mattresses, old clothes, toilet paper, if there is any, and newspapers are all items that poor women use. These are things that may cause infections to the vagina, because they have certain elements/chemicals that are not supposed to be anywhere close to a vagina. Yeast infection is part of their everyday experience, and there is nothing they can do about it. This is something that is an urgent matter. Do not get me wrong, I fully applaud the people who took the initiative in having period drives. You are changing the lives of young girls; one girl at a time. But, more should be done and can be done.
• Frieda Mukufa’s lifestyle section concentrates on women-related issues and parenting every Friday in the New Era newspaper. She also specialises in editing research proposals, proofreading as well as content creation.