A young woman holds up a handmade fabric pad.

Grantee stories

Together for a period-friendly Burkina Faso

Grantee Partner: Organisation pour de Nouvelles Initiatives en Développement et Santé

Grant type: Opportunity

Priorities: Violence, Stigma, Youth, Abortion, Access

Country: Burkina Faso

Organisation pour de Nouvelles Initiatives en Développement et Santé (ONIDS) shares how it is changing negative social norms and advocating for a more menstruation-friendly world.

Menstrual health and hygiene (MH) remains a public health issue in Africa, and Burkina Faso is no exception. Numerous social and religious restrictions limit women’s access to certain activities and places. The lack of drinking water and sanitation is a further obstacle to MH.  The cost of pads is not affordable for everyone. It is even more difficult for girls to manage their periods properly at school, as schools generally lack appropriate facilities. As a result, many girls do not attend school during their periods, and this has a considerable impact on their school performance.

The humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso has exacerbated this situation. With the concentration of people in sites hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs), women and girls face a lack of menstrual products, safe and suitable toilets, dedicated drying facilities and waste disposal mechanisms. This represents a significant loss of privacy and dignity.  

Three women sit in a courtyard. There is a large sign behind them.
Community conversations are important for dealing with menstrual stigma

To reverse this trend of social and cultural barriers and support girls and women, wherever they live, to manage their menstruation with dignity, we must overcome these prejudices and take concrete action to lobby leaders and change social norms within communities. This is what Organisation pour de Nouvelles Initiatives en Développement et Santé (ONIDS) proposes to do in the Central and Central-East regions of Burkina Faso.

ONIDS is a Burkinabe organization made up of activists, mainly women, girls and young people, all with multidisciplinary backgrounds. All its members are committed to promoting and protecting the social and health rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised people. Through awareness-raising, training and advocacy, ONIDS aim to contribute to the well-being of marginalised people in a collaborative, human-rights-based working approach. With this in mind, ONIDS has been working to improve the MH situation in Burkina Faso since 2019, with two AmplifyChange grants.

Menstrual hygiene: my health, my right

The first project Hygiène menstruelle : ma santé – mon droit (Menstrual hygiene: my health, my right) in 2019 focused on breaking taboos within the community to remove stigma and enable respect for the dignity of girls and women. The project aimed to provide MH education and to call on the authorities to ensure a healthy environment for managing periods. The taboo nature of menstruation, combined with stigmatising attitudes, is a source of psychological violence with an impact on economic, educational and social levels in Burkina Faso. The onset of menstruation is a time of marginalisation for girls, who are treated as “contaminated”, “soiled” or “impure”. These perceptions lead them to clandestinely manage their periods with unhygienic practices. So, it was vital to find a solution.

The project, which came to an end in 2020, was a great success in terms of social and behaviour change, with strong support from communities, traditional and religious leaders, as well as an opening up of opportunities to listen to and refer girls for quality care. ONIDS has forged a strong alliance around MH with 11 school clubs, eight partner establishments, three ministries, 37 traditional chiefs and five community clubs whose leaders are chiefs.

Three people sit in an office. Two women are talking to a man.
Engaging with decision-makers is a key part of advocacy

One difficulty was the strong demand for sensibilisation from schools and sites outside the project areas. We made many appeals to resource people at the Ministry of Education, who understood the need and importance of our advocacy for the integration of MH into training curricula. This challenge enabled us to bring evidence of the need for MH education to the Ministry. We successfully put the issue of MH on the political agenda of the education system, of actors promoting women’s rights such as Ministries, and of certain organisations that mentioned MH in their action plans without making it a priority for advocacy.

Movement building for menstruation

To build on the progress made in the previous project, our current project advocates for MH at all socio-political levels. We intend to mobilise local, regional and national alliances to promote MH through its inclusion in country reference frameworks, and to create a network of actors committed to MH issues to break taboos, stigma, prejudice and myths surrounding menstruation. The main challenge is the deterioration of the security situation in project intervention zones, which creates security challenges in our target areas. We also note the instability of project communities to commit to our activities because they need to find means of subsistence due to their precarious living situation.

Three girls sit around a table making fabric pads.
ONIDS supports activities to make reusable pads

Through this project, we want to :

  • Advocate for the revision of communal development plans of four town councils to take into account menstrual hygiene;
  • Encourage the Ministry in charge of humanitarian actions to take MH into account in the humanitarian response plan;
  • Obtain the commitment of the Minister of Health and Public Hygiene to make pads free of charge for girls and women;
  • Break taboos within the community to remove stigma and ensure respect for the dignity of girls and women; and
  • Provide education on menstrual hygiene and call on authorities to ensure a healthy environment to manage menstruation.

The project is organising outreach opportunities for traditional and religious leaders in the various communities and school leaders, in order to win their support and assistance in implementing the project, create alliances and promote ownership of the project. The desired change is for parents and young people to be able to talk openly about menstrual hygiene in schools and in the community without embarrassment or stigma. We hope to reach the point where menstruation becomes normalised and where all girls and women have easy access to menstrual products and facilities.

As many of us as we are, can’t each and every one of us be a major player in promoting menstrual health in Burkina Faso and around the world? Let’s make menstrual health our fight so that every girl and woman will see her rights respected.

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