This piece was originally featured on the Self-Care Trailblazer Group’s blog. PSI is a member of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group and the Global Menstrual Collective, which hosted the recent session on self-care and menstrual health at the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series. The Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series is a highly interactive, virtual forum where participants will exchange and incubate ideas, experiences and solutions on a variety of self-care topics. You can register to attend the series here.
On Tuesday, June 29th, WASH United, Days for Girls International and MIET AFRICA in collaboration with the Global Menstrual Collective hosted a virtual session at the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series, “Exploring the role of supportive self-care environments in advancing menstrual equity.”
Below, we talk with Dr. Renjini Devaki, one of the organizers for the upcoming session on self-care and menstrual health. Dr. Devaki is the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at MIET AFRICA based in South Africa, where she is engaged in youth projects with a focus on retention, absenteeism, teen pregnancy and knowledge and skills in menstrual health management in South Africa.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about MIET AFRICA?
Dr. Renjini Devaki: MIET AFRICA was established in 1996 and is a not-for-profit education organization with a strong presence in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region. We promote the holistic development of children and youth and their associated school communities in the SADC region by supporting education, as well as health and socioeconomic development, where it relates to education.
MIET AFRICA develops comprehensive and innovative approaches to addressing barriers to learning and development for vulnerable children and youth, including poor quality education, disability, abuse, HIV/AIDS and other health-related issues. Our history of innovation and quality delivery makes us well-placed to contribute to the realization of the educational, socioeconomic and health rights of children and youth in southern Africa.
Q: What does self-care mean to you, and how does self-care link to menstrual health?
RD: Self-care is taking care of oneself physically, mentally and emotionally. Through self-care, one can take control of their own life.
As stated in the new definition of menstrual health (MH)—a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle—MIET AFRICA provides age-appropriate information and knowledge about menstruation and menstrual care in classes in selected schools. Self-care enables girls to make healthy and informed choices about their well-being.
Our team shares information on how to take care of menstrual symptoms, like period pain. With the support of school healthcare coordinators, the MIET AFRICA team assists students on how to access appropriate health services in local health clinics.
Q: Why is it important to achieve menstrual equity, and what are some barriers to doing so?
RD: Although topics such as puberty and menstruation are part of school curriculums, they are not sufficiently integrated or taught in most schools. Most of MIET AFRICA’s targeted schools are in rural villages where many myths and misconceptions about menstruation exist.
By conducting comprehensive sexuality education lessons, students can gain knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, including contraceptive options and how to use them. We also provide psychosocial support, which includes counseling exploring the cultural stigma associated with menstruation.
We can achieve menstrual equity through education, access to knowledge and products and services. Only then will girls have the ability to decide on how to take care of their menstrual health and support their overall wellbeing.
Q: In your upcoming session in the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series, what can participants expect from attending?
RD: We will share our findings and experiences from implementing our MH program in 150 schools in three rural provinces of South Africa, where students had little or no knowledge around menstruation. Other speakers from Hey Period., UNICEF South Africa and Days for Girls Ghana will also offer learnings from their programming about challenges that menstruators face and showcase innovative new solutions, both physical and digital.
We’ll be looking across the full course of the menstrual cycle and the reproductive life span, examining links between self-care and menstrual health through four main lenses: mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, menstrual materials and products and education.
To hear more about how MIET AFRICA and other leading menstrual health experts are building supportive self-care environments to advance menstrual equity, register for the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series to view their session and attend other events on self-care here.
The series is open to all interested self-care stakeholders, including advocates, health providers, government representatives, implementers, journalists, community leaders, academia, product developers, feminists, youth champions and more. There is no fee to participate.