For once let's have New Year resolutions that don't involve us personally

Masembe Tambwe

 GREETINGS to you all and a fabulous Merry Christmas. Hoping that this festive period finds you all in mellow moods and at peace with each other.

Today's topic may not be the most palatable but it is one that needs to be addressed and requires collective action.

Allow me to be bold and admit that it hasn't been easy jotting this down and may appear jumbled up but I am sure you will forgive me. There is an English saying that says 'what you don't know won't hurt you'.

In many circumstances this saying is very applicable but not all the time. I have noticed of late that I tend to make a lot of references from my past in my columns but for some reason, they tend to help me a lot piece things together.

My topic today revolves around menstrual hygiene, the taboos that continue to hamper its manifestation and hopefully get New Year's resolutions from the lot of you pledging that in 2017, you will actively participate in sensitising people on menstrual hygiene being a part of personal sanitation and one of the goals of the SDGs.

Today I would like to make a bet. I bet 10,000/- that the response/reaction I got from my mum and sisters over 30 years ago when I inquired what the pretty lady who is always running across the beach is advertising will most likely be the same if my nephew Saadun when is 10 years old asks today.

A bunch of girlish giggles and a promise of being told I will know when I grow up, was the response I got for my troubles. While it didn't hurt me then that I didn't know, it somewhat today draws a picture in my head of the image of jackass, whenever a cartoon character asks a question out of turn or a foolish one.

While researching on this topic, I ran into an article that was published in the Washington Post about a 15 year old Nepali girl who died after being banished for menstruating. It reported that the father found the child on the floor of the hut after she was forced to spend the night there alone.

Some of these customs and traditions simply cease to amaze me. I hear that in some parts of South Asia, the custom is known as Chaupadi which has its centuries old roots in Hinduism and could be one of the reasons why it has proven hard uproot.

According to the tradition, girls are deemed impure and untouchable while menstruating and are sent from their homes to stay in sheds or caves and forced to wash in separate taps.

Are you flabbergasted as I am that such things are happening in this day and age in our own back doors? It is said that communities believe that to break the tradition would bring haunting bad luck, crops would fail, animals would die, snakes would fall from the sky and so forth.

According to these people, the repercussions of daring to stop it is just too daunting to even imagine.

This story has certainly raised my antenna but something tells me that if I go on a fact finding mission in my beloved country, the stories will overwhelm me.

For a number of years now, I have trying to run a blog on sanitation related issues including menstrual, to a certain extent, I have succeeded but hopelessly failing in getting localised stories from home. Whenever I run into a menstrual hygiene story, I have to say, they are rarely success stories and that hurts me, I wish there were much more.

If there is one sector that seriously needs to be looked into when it comes to menstrual hygiene, it surely has to be the education one.

I don't know too much about today but many a people have told me that during their times in schools, the classes were never full throughout the year, girls 'mysteriously' disappeared and reappeared.

I tend to consider myself one of the lucky ones because during my time at boarding school in Kenya, every end of the month, the sick bay would hand over sanitary towels and toilet paper to the ladies and just the 'bog roll' to us.

The bold ones carried them under their arms like their handbags while the scaredy cats hide them under their shirts. My pledge for 2017, I want to play my part in doing away with culturally outdated traditions. By the way, a massive big up to my friend Nasra Karl, the brains behind Elite Organising Services who recently donated sanitary towels to more than 100 girls living in Mabwepande.


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