Faith to Action Network in partnership with ACT Ubumbano and Brot für die Welt are working together to promote interfaith and intergenerational partnerships for young and older generations to jointly create change on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Southern Africa region. This initiative partners with faith leaders of all age, in particular youth leaders within congregations.
With the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, we have started hosting discussions with girls and boys on gender-based violence, menstrual health and mental health. The multi-age discussions raise awareness on SRHR and aim to end period poverty that affects many young girls in Southern Africa. Period poverty is the lack of knowledge about menstruation and an inability to access sanitary towels.
The stigma around menstruation, especially in rural communities, is a issue of concern. In many communities, it is considered taboo for parents to have open conversations with their children about menstrual health and hygiene hence this project seeks to break that barrier which also accounts for Period Poverty. Young girls are therefore forced to learn and get information from their peers, which may be misleading causing health risks.
Many girls often face snags during their menstruation period. Largely, lack of access to hygienic products is experienced. Girls resort to using unhygienic material during their periods including rugs and papers which leads to a high risk of contracting reproductive health infections, leakages and general discomfort.
Recently, the Methodist church of Southern Africa distributed at least 1250 sanitary packs to the underserved youth who reside in Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape, South Africa. Religious leaders present engaged in dialogues with the youth educating them on menstrual hygiene and health. The Methodist church of Southern Africa aims to ensure that no girl is deprived of their human rights due to a normal body function occurring monthly. The Methodist church of Southern Africa also contends that both the elderly and the young people should have open dialogues on sexual and reproductive health. The Methodist church of Southern Africa has reached to over 1200 learners from the rural communities of Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape who should be engaged in these dialogues. In a comment during on of the engagement, Rev Koekoe added that;
“Boys have an obligation to protect girls from any form of harassment be it emotional, physical, sexual, mental and social. These initiatives would not be successful if boys were not included in the engagement as they play a vital role and hence they need to be educated…”
Faith to Action Network, ACT Ubumbano, Brot für die Welt and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa believe that the ability to manage menstruation with dignity is an essential human right of all women. The 7-month Masithethe Initiative is a call to engage in inter-generational and interfaith partnerships to advance adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights and how they are dealt with in the Southern Africa region.