(June 19, 2020) The many meanings of menstruation: discussing menarche and womanhood with Zambian school girls

The strong link between African girls’ education and their menstruation became a taken-for-granted fact which prompted the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector to initiate the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) projects in schools. This has been done because barriers of access to menstrual hygiene (such as the unavailability of pads) have been identified as major obstacles to the educational advancement of adolescent girls in Africa (and the global south in general) resulting to poor health and economic insecurity. Therefore, MHM interventions are valued as important ways to “empower” global south women, by keeping them in school.

Research and interventions by the WASH sector and organisations conducting MHM have met with critiques from feminist scholars. These critiques have highlighted how MHM can reinforce imaginaries of superiority and “civilization” and that inequities aggravated by the lack of access to sanitation cannot be solved with technological fixes, such as the distribution of sanitary pads by MHM projects.

In order to contribute to these critical approaches, this research aimed to capture school girls’ own voices, thoughts, enthusiasms, and anxieties around menstruation and womanhood. It thus engaged with girls in two schools from urban Zambia, through photo-voice workshops. This webinar will present the findings of this research.

The speaker, Amie Jammeh, a scholar from the Gambia, graduated from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education with an MSc in Sanitation. I have a BA degree in Plant Production from the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan. I also hold a Teacher Certificate in General Science and Social and Environmental Science from The Gambia College. For five years I worked as a graduate teacher, with a focus on delivering quality and innovative agricultural expertise, skills and knowledge. As a graduate teacher, I have worked to boost the removed ‘morals’ and interest of young people towards agriculture. I am interested in peri-urban livelihoods, Sub-Saharan Africa’s urbanization, sanitation, and gender.

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