ASSESSMENT OF FEMALE YOUTHS (12 TO 20 YEARS) KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE IN MUEA COMMUNITY
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This study was aimed at assessing female youths’ knowledge and practice of menstrual hygiene in the Muea community. The specific objectives were: to assess the knowledge of female youths (12-20 years) on menstrual hygiene, to evaluate the practice of menstrual hygiene by female youths (12-20 years), to examine the challenges faced by female youths (12-20 years) in practicing menstrual hygiene.
It was a qualitative descriptive study where a convenience sampling technique was used and a sample size of 305 used. The data was analyzed using Microsoft excel 2010 after data was collected using a well-structured questionnaire based on the specific objectives. The results were presented on tables, figures and pie chart .Most of the respondents were female youths 12-14 years (153).
The results shows that 245(67%) could identify the right definition of menstrual hygiene, 205(67%) practice poor menstrual hygiene, 248(81%) had at least one challenge faced in practicing proper menstrual hygiene. It was recommended that community health workers should carry out sensitization and create awareness on menstrual hygiene in the community.
The history of menstrual hygiene begins with ancient civilizations. Girls have experienced periods since before humans were completely evolved as a species. Despite this, there’s very little documentation about girls periods in ancient history, probably due to the fact that most of the scribes were men who chose not to record menstruation.(WHO.2019).
What we do know is that girls likely experienced a much lighter menstrual cycle than we do today, partly due to malnourishment and partly due to the fact that girls started menopause as early as 40. Today, girls usually begin menopause around age 50 (WHO,2019). Historians also believe that menstruating girls were associated with magic and sorcery.
For example, Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote that a menstruating girl could stop hail storms and lightning, as well as kill crops. It was also believed they could kill bees, dim mirrors and rust weapons just by looking at them. (Madison et al, 2012) No one knows for sure what girls used when they had their period in ancient times. Some historians believe that Ancient Egyptians used tampons made of softened papyrus, Ancient Greeks made tampons from bits of wood with lint wrapped around them and Romans used pads and tampons made of wool.
Menstruation is a naturally occurring physiological phenomenon in adolescent girls and per-menopausal girls (Biran A et al, 2015). According to WHO and UNICEF, Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) involves girls and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials.
According to (UNICEF, 2018) Globally, about 500 Million women lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. Menstruation necessitates the availability of material resources to absorb or collect menstrual blood, facilitate personal hygiene and dispose of waste, ideally with adequate privacy (Sahin M. 2015). Women and girls in low income settings have low awareness on hygienic practices and lack culturally approp iate materials for menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices (Sumpter C, et al, 2011; Arumugam et al, 2014).
Menstruation, though a natural process, has been, and still is, dealt with in secrecy ( Mahon et al, 2012). From this stage onwards until menopause, reproductive health and menstrual hygiene are important aspects in the lives of females.
There is however not much attention paid to the youth and women specific health needs, notwithstanding that doing so would lay a good foundation for their physical and mental well-being and their ability to cope with the heavy demands of reproductive health later in life ( Mahon et al, 2012). In a worst case scenario, the latter may include unwanted pregnancies, urinary tract infections (UTI) and pelvic inflammatory diseases (Narayan et al, 2016).
Important aspects of reproductive health services, which include information dissemination, guidance and support, are challenging responsibilities for the health care and education systems in Cameroon. Warenius et al, (2014) also found that gender norms and values related to culture and religion are influential barriers to communication on reproductive health issues among youth in the Cameroon society.
Menstrual hygiene, which refers to the effective management of menstrual bleeding by girls, is an important aspect of reproductive health, which if not handled too appropriately can cause infections of the urinary tract, pelvic inflammatory diseases and vaginal thrush, as well as bad odor, soiled garments and ultimately shame, leading to infringement on the girls’ dignity (Oche et al, 2012).
1.2. Problem Statement
In Cameroon, the issue of menstruation is rarely mentioned publicly, due to cultural taboos. Furthermore, there is no mandate in the Cameroonian Educational institutions to help girls in managing their menstruation. Neither are there gender-friendly school toilets, nor is there readiness on the part of the teachers to assist menstruating girls through the provision of advice or information (Warenius et al, 2014).
Due to the lack of knowledge on menstrual hygiene and cultural background surrounding menstruation in Cameroon, most women get infected at the end of their periods. Thus, it is necessary for more research to be done in other to educate the masses. (foncha Robert,2018) Also, between the ages of 12 to 18, the researcher’s older sibling had recurrent episodes of urinary tract infections, after consultation at the hospital it was discovered that the infections were caused by lack of menstrual hygiene.
Lastly, while spending a 3 months holiday at the Muea community, the researcher engaged in conversations with most girls aged 12 to 20 about menstruation, and she observed that many of them lacked knowledge about the proper hygiene during menstruation.