I would like to share with all readers some sad realities that young girls live on a daily basis, which stem from the occurrence of menstruation. I write this article with the hope that, from where you are, you will act in their favour.
Menstruation, a moment in our lives when everything stops
In Kinshasa, in the commune of Makala and specifically where I live, in the M’Fidi district, the majority of girls who are on their period are separated and prevented from using the same sanitary installations as other children, under the pretext that they would damage the latrines. For girls who attend school, this ordeal even occurs there. As a matter of fact, in practically all the schools in my district, there is only one communal sanitary installation for girls and boys. In this light, I let you guess the psychological suffering that my friends and I endure when we have our periods. In order not to be ridiculed, we often pretend to be sick.
When we talk with other girls, we even learn that there are some who are forbidden to use the same tapes as girls who are on their period because “they will contaminate the water just by touching the tap”. Periods seem like a moment in our lives when everything stops. Whether we want it or not, we are obliged to separate and isolate ourselves from everything! With so much stigma, periods make us seem like people who have committed a sin that is not forgiven until it ends. Our burden is not lifted until the end of these 5 to 7 seven days. This timespan seems endless compared to a month, so having the mental effort is important.
A lack of access to proper hygiene: a risk for the future
Moreover, the financial situation of many parents do not sort things out. Girls cannot even find the means to buy the appropriate sanitary products, a packet of which costs USD$1 each month. Thus, they use sanitary pads that are sometimes worn out, totally ignoring the risks to which they expose themselves. Even if they knew, as I do through biology class, that such practice could lead to infections, to reduced reproductive capacity, or even to death, I ask myself if these girls would have the choice.
In passing, I would not surprise you by telling you that in our Congolese culture, when a woman cannot have children, we easily attribute this to sorcery, forgetting that bad hygiene management during youth could be the cause of this unfortunate situation.
I am sure that what girls are living in my commune has also been experienced by other girls in other parts of the DRC and in the world.
Menstruation is important – that’s the rule!
By reading the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I learnt that obligations have been taken to protect every child from all forms of mental harm, against all intrusions in their private life, and against all forms of discrimination in the enjoyment of their rights. The good health and harmonious development of the child are guaranteed by this text ratified by our country in 1990. At the time, I was not born. Now, I will soon be 18 years old, and I will no longer be a child.
However, my wish for my younger sisters is that the community will become aware of the fact that menstruation is a natural element of our human existence. Cultural beliefs lead to the violation of the rights of the child, which can traumatise a girl until the end of her life. It is thus necessary, when constructing or reconstructing schools, to install separate sanitary facilities for girls and boys, and to provide menstruation kits for girls in these installations.
If you do this, I am sure that the girls of Makala and elsewhere in the country will live comfortably, and exercise their daily functions normally, even during their period.
If you do not do this, be sure that these girls will continue to grow without assurance and confidence in themselves. Is this what you want?
Managing menstrual hygiene in the DRC
UNICEF, the British Cooperation and Brussels-Capital have engaged with the Congolese government to finance activities linked to the management of menstrual hygiene. A study on the management of menstrual health in the DRC will soon be released with a view to integrate this subject into the “Healthy Village and School” Programme.
Initially published in May 2018
Djenny, 17 ans, a décidé de devenir Enfant Reporter pour donner de la voix aux enfants qui ne peuvent pas s’exprimer et participer aux décisions qui les concernent.
Djenny, 17, has become a Young Reporter to give voice to children who cannot express their opinion and to participate in decisions that affect them.