This year, Hadir Barbar (individual member) and Joy Amani Center CBO were awarded a Share-Net International small grant to execute the “Menstruation Shouts” project.
Menstruation remains a taboo in many countries and is affected by gender inequalities and lack of accessibility to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified this taboo and the related restrictions hinder thousands of menstruating people around the world from being able to have dignified menstruation.
For this blog, SRHR activist, advocate and programme manager of the Menstruation Shouts project, Hadir Barbar and Evans Mose, advocate for SRHR for adolescent girls and Programmes Coordinator at the Kenyan Joy Amani Center CBO, took the time to speak with Share-Net International to reflect upon the added value and results of carrying out a project financed through Share-Net International.
The Menstruation Shouts project responds to the need to integrate menstrual health services in the COVID-19 response. The project aims to explore and document the menstrual health experiences and challenges of both menstruating healthcare workers in the COVID-19 frontline response and menstruating adolescent girls in the community who are under the stay-at-home measures in Egypt and Kenya. This project will inform best practices and programme design to prioritise the integration of menstrual health services in the SRHR response during the COVID-19 pandemic and to improve the work conditions of the healthcare workers.
Through this project, Hadir, Evans and their project teams capture the menstrual health experiences of healthcare workers (including public health practitioners, community workers, etc.) through digital storytelling videos. These videos break the silence on menstruation among adolescent girls and menstruating healthcare workers while creating empathy among the general public and motivating programme designers and implementers to take immediate action towards applying or improving menstrual health measures in their programmes and practices. The first video can be watched below.
Additionally, they create informative fact sheets based on the experiences of adolescent girls. These fact sheets are used to inform the organisations working on menstrual health programming in North and East Africa.
“A small grant is small, but it can do great things.”, Evans notes. He explains that the small grant has pushed them to do some additional work next to their regular activities at Joy Amani Center CBO, especially at a time where they are in the midst of the pandemic. However, the pandemic has also caused some difficulties for the project. Specifically, the social distancing measures and travel restrictions in both countries have affected the ability to do interviews. While describing these effects, Hadir and Evans show great flexibility and a positive attitude. They adapted to the circumstances by holding interviews via Zoom and acknowledge the challenges in their reports.
The small grant enabled collaboration between two different countries and two different cultures. Both Hadir and Evans value the cross-country collaboration and enjoy the learning element that this entails. Hadir explains that it is always nice to explore collaborations with Share-Net members from other countries but that it also takes effort to facilitate it well, especially when the number of partners increases. “It’s always nice to highlight the differences and similarities between countries.”, she voices, “Yet, we found that there are always more similarities, regardless of the differences in cultures, social norms and healthcare system structures. There are always similarities in the challenges.” The project team is therefore committed to making global recommendations that can later be contextualised in different countries.
The interview clearly shows the dedication of Hadir and Evans to continue their work after the project cycle of the Share-Net International small grant. “During our interviews, we have noticed some challenges, either with the adolescent girls who are needing a lot of services on the ground, but also among the healthcare workers who noted that different policies needed a lot of effort within the healthcare centres. It is not only during COVID-19 but also during regular times. We noticed that a lot of institutions do not have policies to deal with menstruating healthcare workers. For instance, the infection control and waste management of menstrual products was an absent thing at various institutions, even in high-quality healthcare facilities.”, Hadir illustrates. They are therefore looking into a sustainable approach to continue after the project end, potentially by engaging local and international civil society organisations and organising advocacy movements around menstruation. “In both countries, there are always efforts for advocacy from women’s rights organisations and feminist movements. Yet, they are not organised, they are incident-oriented. What we will focus on through recommendations is that we should focus on a cause rather than an incident and involve the incident in our cause rather than the other way around.”
Are you interested to learn more about the Menstruation Shouts project or would you like to support Hadir Barbar and Joy Amani Center CBO in the continuation of their work after the project ends? Then please reach out to them via firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.