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| May 28, 2015

‘Ending the Hesitation around Menstruation’: GrowUp Smart

Over 40% of girls in Rwanda miss school regularly due to a lack of sanitary pads or inappropriate sanitary facilities. And while there are a number of initiatives out there trying to address this issue, many treat menstruation as an isolated event. The focus is exclusively on managing monthly bleeding.

But what if we thought about menstruation more holistically, as just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a girl’s menstrual cycle and fertility? If we created programs that included boys, parents, and communities as allies, would it help end hesitation around menstruation and create a supportive environment for girls?

Talking_about_Girls_AdolescenceThat’s what GrowUp Smart—an interactive puberty education program—is trying to do. By engaging very young adolescent (VYA) girls and boys ages 10-14 in Rwanda to learn about the menstrual cycle within the context of many other changes that occur during puberty, the curriculum empowers VYAs to make healthy and safe choices about their reproductive health, both now and in the future.

The GrowUp Smart Brochures and Storybooks were developed with feedback from VYAs and their parents through focus group discussions and were validated by key stakeholders like the Ministry of Health. Along with nine sessions led by facilitators and supported by the brochures, storybooks, and a game, parents and community members are also included in regular discussions.

Right now, GrowUp Smart’s impact is being evaluated. We’re measuring knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of 3,500 VYAs and their parents across Rwanda on topics from the curriculum through pre- and post-intervention surveys.

The future looks bright. A growing evidence base indicates that VYAs who are knowledgeable about their body and fertility are able to communicate about these topics with peers and adults and develop increased self-efficacy to obtain sexual and reproductive health services as they need them. So far, we’ve seen that VYAs participating in GrowUp Smart are not hesitant to discuss sensitive topics, even in mixed gender groups.

May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day—a day dedicated to breaking the silence and building awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. We believe that teaching VYAs about menstruation and fertility within the context of other normal puberty changes lays the foundation for improved future sexual and reproductive health. And engaging boys, parents, and communities is a crucial part of creating a safe and equitable environment for girls to manage menstruation and future fertility so they can finish school and pursue their dreams.

Get involved.

Why does #MenstruationMatter to you? End hesitation around menstruation through the May 28, 2015 Menstrual Hygiene Day.

RSVP for “The Voices of Why Menstruation Matters,” hosted by the DC Coalition for Menstruation Hygiene Day tomorrow, May 28.

Join us at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference, and learn more on the SMCR blog, Menstrual education perspectives from Africa, India, Bangladesh, and the United States


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