Celebrating under the theme “Making Menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030” Lesotho held its first ever National Consultative Forum on Menstrual Health and Hygiene in Maseru yesterday.
The objectives of the Forum included discussing the status, bottlenecks and opportunities to accelerate menstrual health and hygiene in Lesotho as well as to discuss ways to develop strategic partnerships and synergies to accelerate menstrual health and hygiene in the country.
Speaking at the event, Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeso said there are still women and girls who have no access to sanitary pads, clean water and toilets for privacy adding that many schools have no sanitation properties.
“Some communities in our country still practice discriminatory, harmful socio cultural norms, stigmas and taboos. This needs to change and we all need to commit to be part of the change including men and boys,” she said.
She said there has to be will to remove the obstacles, identify opportunities and strengthen efforts to accelerate access to menstrual health and hygiene services in Lesotho.
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health, Motlohi Maliehe who is the Minister of Public Service, said that Menstrual Hygiene Day aims at bringing together efforts by government agencies, partner NGOs, and individuals to promote good menstrual health and hygiene.
“This is an opportunity for us to break the silence, raise awareness and change the negative social norms around menstrual health and hygiene as well as creating a conducive environment where girls and women are able to manage menstrual cycle in a dignified and healthy manner,” he said.
Maliehe reaffirmed government’s commitment to promoting good menstrual management “…to effectively manage their menstruation women and girls require basic needs such as clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, affordable and appropriate hygiene products”.
He said, information, good practice and a supportive environment can help in management of menstruation without embarrassment and stigma.
N the other hand, Phehello Phera from the Ministry of Health stated that there are still barriers around menstrual health and hygiene including fact that there is still about 20% of the population that does not have access to improved water facilities as well as 27% with unimproved sanitation facilities.
“The data shows that half of the schools have no water supply and even worse are sanitation facilities as well as menstrual health management rules,” he said.
On behalf of the youth, Mpeo Mokherehloa, a visually impaired youth, said menstruation period is the most difficult time especially for visually impaired persons because they cannot even see what is going on with their bodies.
“Sometimes I have to be told by other people that I am on my periods because I cannot see. I appreciate efforts made to disseminate information to all people including men and boys. This helps to reduce stigma and they are also able to communicate to make us aware that we have to clean ourselves,” she said.