By Tiana Bouma
Menstruation is perhaps one of the most ordinary individual female experiences but, in Africa, the experience often negatively impacts society as a whole due to the absence of clean water, sanitation, and products to cope with menstrual flow. The process of menstruation comes as a big problem to women and girls in many parts of Africa, contributing to both disempowerment and health risks.
Affordable and hygienic sanitary protection is not available to many women and girls and those from poor families usually cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. Therefore, they resort to using unhygienic rags and cloths, which puts them at the risk of infections. In some cases, girls engage in transactional sex so that they can raise the money needed to buy sanitary towel, which also puts them at risk of HIV and STI infections.
In regards to education, girls are vulnerable to missing school or dropping out due to inadequate water supplies and bad sanitation. Many are reluctant to continue their schooling when menstrual pads, toilets, and washing facilities are not private, not safe, or not available. In Kenya alone, UNESCO estimates that 2.2 million girls, approximately 50% of school-age girls, do not have access to sanitary pads.
Women and girls are more likely to skip school during their cycles if there isn’t adequate sanitation or a lack of education about menstruation. A girl absent from school due to menstruation for four days in a month loses 13 learning days, equivalent to two weeks of learning, in every school term. In a four-year period, this means a girl loses almost 24 weeks of learning.
Outside of physical issues that women and girls deal with during their menstrual cycle, they can also deal with stigmas and bullying from classmates and even teachers. Many girls end up missing considerable amounts of school or even drop out due to the humiliation and stigma related to menstruation.
Because there is such a stigma with menstruation and it still deemed a private issue, government and non-government organizations are not educating women and girls about their menstruation cycle. Cultural and social attitudes as well as a lack of information also render the discussion almost impossible between parents and their daughters.
Menstrual hygiene management and education is an urgent priority among women and girls, and essential products need to be made affordable to the poorest, most marginalized, and most remote girls and women.
Improving girls’ access to proper menstruation productions and education could lead to improved general education, improved health, and improved overall well being of girls and women. But menstrual hygiene isn’t merely a women and girls’ issue. It’s an issue that can impact entire families, societies and countries, because when girls and women thrive, everyone benefits.
By Tiana Bouma
Despite progress in some countries, many women and babies still die during childbirth in Africa. 800 women a day die in pregnancy or childbirth and of that number over 50% of the women are from Sub Saharan Africa. Globally, 3 million newborns die each year and there are 2.6 million stillbirths, with Africa accounting for more than half of both numbers.
Adolescent girls (ages 15-19) are at high risk of childbirth and pregnancy related complications. For many women in African countries, no nurses or doctors are available to assist in childbirth. There is a 1 in 160 probability that a 15-year-old woman will eventually die from maternal causes in developing countries versus 1 in 3,700 in developed countries.
In Liberia 221 in every 1,000 cases of pregnancy are adolescents. According to WHO, the main causes of maternal deaths are severe bleeding after birth, post-childbirth infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, unsafe abortions, and diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. This is made even more complicated when women cannot make decisions about their own health. In general, 95% of married girls under the age of 19 in sub-Saharan Africa have no say over whether to access or use contraceptives”. (UN Population Fund)
Poverty fuels maternal mortality. The combination of distance, a lack of information, and poverty means that women in remote parts of Africa have no access to health care at all. Illiteracy, poverty, and weak health care systems specifically hamper progress in maternal health.
The solution for preventing unnecessary deaths in pregnancy is to offer adequate maternity care during the entire pregnancy, during birth, and as follow up. Educating women about their choices, what happens during the pregnancy, and offering contraceptives is also vital. These women and adolescents deserve the best possible chance for themselves and their babies and the simple, easy steps that can be taken such as education will have a far-reaching impact.
By Tiana Bouma
Around 51% of Liberia’s population lives in rural areas and 70% of the active population is engaged in agricultural activities. The use of modern technology is limited and slash-and-burn farming is the primary production system.
Traditional agriculture is a type of farming that uses techniques developed over decades or centuries to ensure good, sustainable yield over time in a specific area or region. Traditional farms are based around mixed crops that complement one another and involve the intensive use of indigenous knowledge, natural resources, and cultural beliefs of the farmers.
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique that involves the cutting and burning of plants in forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology.
Most farmers in the rural communities use traditional farming techniques to create productive fields that grow rice, cassava, and other crops. Due to the limited amount of modern technology available and the traditional farming techniques used, farmers focus on being able to plant enough for their families to eat.
The government and agriculture sector depend heavily on external help in getting reconstruction plans off the ground. Collaboration with national and international partners, like It Takes A Village Africa, is critical to getting help to farmers in rural areas.