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Menstrual hygiene matters for the girls in Nyarugusu refugee camp, Kigoma Region

Managing menstruation is often challenging for adolescent girls in Tanzania – and around the world – but these challenges are exacerbated for the girls of Nyarugusu refugee camp where a lack of privacy and access to water, and materials to manage their periods, are often lacking.  Girls feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about attending school or playing with their friends when they are menstruating, anxious and fearful that someone will find out. For many monthly periods are a time of isolation; girls miss school and they miss out.

UNFPA – as part of development and humanitarian activities – are working to reach some of the furthest behind adolescent youth in Kigoma Region in both the local community and Nyarugusu refugee camp through the Ujana Wangu Nguvu Yangu – My Youth, My Power – project supported by Irish Aid. Activities under the project include the distribution of Adolescent Dignity Kits – which include reusable sanitary pads. Some 2,888 kits were distributed in 2020 through UNFPA’s partner the International Rescue Committee, to adolescent girls – both in and out of school – and first-time young mothers, a particularly vulnerable group.  

Asma,* aged 12, received one of the kits, which were distributed in tandem with an education session on good personal and menstrual hygiene.  She could barely hide her delight – and relief.  She says she will no longer have to worry about how she will manage her period every month and that it’s a ‘golden opportunity’ for her – and other girls – to compete as equals with their male peers at school. Joyce,* a first-time young mother, no longer attends school, but says that the kit – and reusable sanitary pads – mean that she can participate in community activities – in everyday life. For her the kit is accompanied by hope. 

There is no specific goal or indicator related to menstrual hygiene management in the Global Goals, but it is integral to the realization of several others including Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 – ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – and SDG 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.  UNFPA will continue to support some of the most marginalized adolescents and young people in Kigoma to realize their sexual and reproductive health and rights – including managing their menstrual hygiene with dignity – supporting efforts that expand access to age-appropriate services and information that respond to their unique needs, and putting youth at the front and centre of project activities.