On the 24thand 25thof November 2018, Girls Excel organised a two day workshop on Menstrual Hygiene Management empowering 18 participants from three secondary and high schools in the Adamawa region of Cameroon. The workshop that took place at the Ngaoundere 3 Council was funded by the British High Commission, Yaoundé as the first of 4 regional workshops within the framework of a multi dimensional project called ‘Menstrual Hygiene Campaign in Schools’. This project is a 6-month campaign to reduce girls’ absences from school as a result of poor menstrual hygiene practices by providing know how on washable sanitary pads and education to address the stigma surrounding menstruation in Cameroon’s Far North, Adamawa, South West and North West Regions.
Participants consisted of adolescent girls (13-19 years) from rural schools specifically GHS Gadamabanga, GBHS Malang and CETIC Malang all located within the Adamawa region. Four of the participants were teachers (3 women and a man) from the above schools who were also trained alongside their students so that they could follow up the implementation of the project in their respective schools and communities. Top on the agenda of the workshop was assessing the menstrual needs of the girls by evaluating what kind of support they already have from their home and schools to help them manage this monthly experience and what they still need to make menstruation a comfortable experience for them.
This exercise was also an opportunity for the project to tract its progress in the future. Also important was the session on Puberty, Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle lead by Peace Corp Volunteer Hailey Shoemaker and Girls Excel trainer Mercy Dinkaa. This was followed by practical sessions on Menstrual Hygiene management and the making of reusable sanitary pads lead by Girls Excel Founder Delphine Konda and Peace Corp Volunteer Hailey Shoemaker.Day two of the workshop started with a recap and the girl’s impressions of day one. This was followed by a session on how to run a girls-led club in their various schools through which they can replicate the knowledge gained and teach other girls about menstruation and making their own sanitary pads. After this session, the girls were divided into groups where they worked on practical and feasible strategies on how to implement the menstrual hygiene campaign project in their schools. The entire second half of Day 2 of the workshop consisted on making reusable sanitary pads. The girls learned the names of the different fabrics used such as (fleece, flannel and cottons and how to position them) which all helps with absorption, comfort and facilitates cleaning. They also learned how to wash and preserve their reusable sanitary pads after use each month. Girls Excel also taught the girls how to make their own personalised storage bags. The workshop ended with a vote of thanks and handing of certificates to the participants.
On Monday the 27thof November, the Girls Excel team visited one of the schools Government Bilingual High School Malang where the 4 participants from this school lead a practical session before their friends showcasing what they have learned and how they plan to run a health club in the school to teach other girls and even boys. The highlight of this workshop was the fact that one of the teachers trained was a man who believes that:
it is important for workshops on menstrual hygiene management to specifically target senior discipline masters because they are often the ones whom female students go to for permission to skip school because of lack of pads, blood stain on their uniforms or cramps. Personally, until this workshop, I used to deny to give permission to students who came to me about any of these issues because I just taught they were making excuses to go home but now I know better and I encourage all other male teachers to pay attention and help our girls as much as possible
Aboubakar Adamou, teacher, Lycee de Gada-Mabanga