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Grantee stories

Breaking the taboo on menstrual health through engagement with traditional leaders

Grantee Partner: Forum for African Women Educationalists (Benin)

Grant type: Strengthening

Priorities: Stigma, Youth

Country: Benin

Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of girls’ rights in Benin. Through their AmplifyChange project, they focus on improving the evidence available around menstrual health for school-going girls in Benin, and work to ensure that menstrual health is recognised as a key component of SRHR for girls.

FAWE/BENIN’s baseline study allowed them to identify areas of need in terms of advocacy and social norm change on menstruation, which contributed to the development of key messaging for advocacy and outreach. Through their sensitisation campaigns with queen mothers and other religious and cultural leaders, as well as school-aged youth, the communities they are serving gained a better understanding of issues related to menstrual health, reducing stigma and taboo on the topic. A total of 2,637 beneficiaries, including 1,005 boys, 1,277 girls, 238 women and 117 men, have been directly impacted by the organization’s awareness raising and capacity building activities.

A group of women are sitting in a circle. A man is asking them questions. The image is a screenshot from a news report with the caption 'Reducing discrimination to respect the SRHR of young men and women: the NGO FAWE-BENIN leading a community advocacy session in Avrankou'.
Clip from a news feature about FAWE’s work with queen mothers

Among the beneficiaries, particularly young people, 68% of girls felt that their attendance at school during menstruation had improved, and that they were less stressed during their periods. Among them, 83.27% of girls have regained self-confidence and are more likely to confide their difficulties to focal points who support them with advice. Regarding key leaders, 72.26% of parents and queen mothers who received training were more likely to discuss menstruation-related issues with their daughters. In this way, stigmatisation and taboo on the subject has reduced.

The technical tools made available to us by FAWE/BENIN are very relevant, in particular the “Sang sans tabou” (Blood without Taboo) programme. This tool has enabled me to open up and discuss menstrual health issues freely with my peers, and to improve my knowledge of my sexual and reproductive rights and the SRH services available to young people. Thanks to FAWE/BENIN, many of my classmates and I are able to advocate for change in our community. I’m glad we’re organised into a club to share knowledge with our peers.  We must encourage FAWE/BENIN in its efforts, because it has helped us to build ourselves socially.

Student at one of the project schools

During the same period, thanks to the lobbying efforts of civil society organizations, law no. 2022-04 of February 16, 2022 on the Public Hygiene Code in the Republic of Benin was passed and promulgated. Article 119 of the said law addresses the issue of menstrual health management, and requires those in charge of high schools and colleges to provide “these educational settings with a minimum of a single sanitary space separated for both men and women which respects privacy, and a space equipped with soap, drinking water, sanitary protection materials for intimate hygiene and hand washing, menstrual linen and clothing, as well as lidded garbage cans for changing and disposing of sanitary protection waste”. The implementation of this law will bring about a definite change in the school environment for young people, to enable young girls in particular to fully enjoy good menstrual health.

FAWE/BENIN has taken full advantage of this provision of the law to convince the ministerial authority to take specific measures to combat discrimination related to menstrual health management, and to facilitate the infusion of menstrual health management into sexual and reproductive health education curricula for young people in the Republic of Benin.

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