Hiking to make lives of girl child better, because every girl should be in school and not in marriage. Last weekend Raising Teenagers-Uganda organized a very successful hiking event to make everyone aware of the fact that every child has a right to enjoy their childhood, and also to break the stigma around menstruation.
Fighting against the stigma around menstruation to prevent child marriages. That may sound far-fetched, but is actually very logical. In Uganda, girls who have their period often stay at home because they do not have access to good toilets or sanitary towels (it’s not there or it’s too expensive). In that way they miss a week of school every month. And that is a problem, because education is one of the best ways to prevent child marriages: the longer a girl is in school, the later she gets married. Knowing this, Raising Teenagers-Uganda organized a very succesful hike in July to break the stigma around menstruation: they wanted to make everyone aware of the fact that every child has a right to enjoy their childhood, ‘because every girl should be in school and not in marriage’.
Hope Nankunda, the Ugandan central regional coordinator at Girls Not Brides and team leader of Raising Teenagers-Uganda put it this way: ‘Why should a girl be forced into marriage just because she has started her periods? We are smashing these unrealistic taboos. Childmarriage is a violation of children’s rights. We want everyone to respect and protect children for who they are.’
Nakato Joyce, program officer supporting Her Choice work in Mbale epicenter, joined the hiking for the second time and was the fourth to reach the peak. She shares her experiences: ‘We were hiking to create awareness about fighting menstrual stigma and trying to experience what girls go through every day as they are trying to attain basic education. We started off the hike as a group of 28 participants and it was very long and difficult. The path was very steep at many places, and there was no place to rest. Some of the participants were regular hikers but this didn’t stop my ambition of hiking too since I was very sure that I was doing this for a reason and I had too much trust in myself that I will make it to Karangula peak (3012 meters above the sea level). Something that motivated me the more, was the fact that if these girls face all these challenges everyday and they still don’t give up, who am I to give up just in one day?’
Christine, THP-U Programme Officer and coordinating Her Choice activities in four central epicenters, also had a very clear reason to participate in the huike: ‘Just like this hiking experience, the struggle to break menstrual stigma is not going to be easy. It is rooted in the way boys and girls have been raised and educated by their communities. It is embedded in the mainstream structures that govern and make decisions for our societies. For us to change this trend, it is going to need champions like us who are ready to take on the hike every morning and never giving up on the things that make life worth living for all of us. Let us never give up on the girl child.’
One of the promising practices presented by Her Choice last spring, is making sanitary materials available for all school girls and demystifying and de-stigmatizing of menstruation by openly addressing and discussing these issues with girls and boys. The hikers in Uganda did not only break the stigma around menstruation in the Rwenzori mountainous region this weekend, but also supported school girls with sanitary pads and knickers, talked to community leaders about the need to keep girls in school and end childmarriage, hiked with adolescent girls so that they understand their commitment to make their lives meaningful and performed in radio programs that helped them to reach many other families in different districts.