Twelve volunteers from the Netball Development Trust (NDT) have returned to the UK following a three-week tour to Kenya and Uganda where they helped to deliver a menstrual health programme to women and girls.
The tour visited four ongoing projects in Bungoma, Kenya, and Fort Portal, Jinja and Mukono in Uganda.
For the past 18 months NDT and its local partners such as X-SUBA have integrated sexual health education into their netball programme. This has enhanced coach-participant relationships and continues to open opportunities for young people to freely share and learn from each other and the trained facilitators.
While coaching netball in a few of the schools in August, the tour group led menstrual health conversations with the girls.
Julie Smith, NDT Head of Development, explained: “One particularly interesting day was a session we led at ‘connection day’ with our partner, X-SUBA in Jinja, Uganda.
“We ran a 45-minute netball session with about 30 girls of all ages, allowing them to show us the skills they have learned from the local coaches. We were suitably impressed! We then split them into age groups and sat down to have different conversations about periods, depending on their understanding and experience.
“There were many misconceptions, misunderstandings and fears among the girls such as tampons causing a loss of virginity, that it is the egg breaking down that causes the blood to fall and that you can’t get pregnant if you have sex during your period. Others lacked knowledge about what had happened to them when they first started bleeding.
“Many were brought up not using pads, but finding scraps of cotton, foam from mattresses or socks; as they simply couldn’t afford to buy pads. Others were going to extreme lengths to raise the money (£2) to buy pads, making them vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence.”
NDT volunteers have “honest” conversations about being ‘a woman’, sharing stories about periods (staining, abdominal pain and how netball helps) and discuss disposable and reusable pads with the girls.
Julie added: “We hope to provide these girls with pads in the near future, to keep them safe, hygienic and playing netball.
“With our partner X-SUBA, who are working in the slums of Walukuba-Masese Jinja district, we are also planning to pilot a project on menstrual health education with reusable pads to support girls that are still challenged to access these basic health needs/services in these communities.”
The reusable sanitary pads are being donated by Freedom4Girls, a Leeds-based charity in the UK.