World Menstrual Health Day: Shattering the Stigma in Papua New Guinea

Every Thursday, for the past five (5) years a group of dedicated women meet in Lae, Papua New Guinea, to sew high quality washable menstrual pads. So far, they have distributed over 3000 of these hygiene packs to girls in the Morobe province.

Photo supplied: Nakei Siloi (L) &  Munum Primary School Girls (R)

In preparation for Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May), girls from Christ The King Primary School will receive sets of these hand-sewn items, along with a health talk about the female body, menstruation, pregnancy and the importance of female hygiene. 

“There is a big need. Store-bought pads are expensive. And the disposal of plastic synthetic pads is a problem for our environment.” Nakei Siloi, Marama and spokesperson for the group has been a volunteer with Days for Girls since 2018. “We do not want our daughters to miss school just because she has her sikmun. We want to educate our girls about her monthly cycle. To emphasize to her how natural and normal having a period is.” 

In many parts of Papua New Guinea, haus meri or menstrual huts provide women and girls with the opportunity to support one another during their sikmun. “Because many of us have moved to urban locations, these opportunities for focused learning and rest are not readily available. We may not be talking openly about menstrual hygiene, so our daughters miss out.”

There is a culture of shame and taboo on matters pertaining to sexuality. Girls are teased at school if their clothes are stained. This also discourages our daughters from attending class. 

“Days for Girls have programmes which educate our sons about menstruation. It is called ‘Men who Know.’” Every man and boy is connected to a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, coworker or classmate. Men and boys would be crucial partners to shatter the stigma and in the future, influence decision making. “We are looking for men who might want to volunteer to join us in this endeavour” said Ms Siloi. 

Days for Girls was first established in Lae by Wendy Christie, supported by New Zealand, and Australian Days for Girls Teams and Chapters (especially those in Annerley, Boonah and Redlands, Queensland) along with sponsors; The Lioness Club of Lae, Express Freight Management, Chemcare, Papindo Ltd, Theodist and Brian Bell Home Centres.

This initiative on World Menstrual Health Day will reach over 150 young girls

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