Monday, June 17, 2024

Breaking the Silence: Binti Celebrates Menstrual Health Day in The Gambia

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By: Mama A. Touray

Binti Period Gambia joins the global community in celebrating Menstrual Health Day with the theme “Together for a Period Friendly World.” This day calls for a world where the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation are relics of the past, and where every girl attains period dignity—access to period products, education, and the eradication of shame.

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The statement highlighted the significance of this day, stating that it is particularly important not only for Binti as an organization but also for the rest of the world, especially the people of The Gambia. It offers an opportunity to reflect on unique cultural practices and language use regarding menstruation.

The statement added that Menstrual Health Day is not merely about acknowledging a biological process but about confronting the stigmas and taboos that impede progress and health.

In many Gambian communities, openly discussing menstruation remains taboo. Rather than using proper biological terms in Mandinka and Wolof, communities have adopted code words and euphemisms. For instance, “Kuroo” in Mandinka or “Footh” in Wolof, which literally means “washing,” is often used as a euphemism for menstruation.

According to Binti, while this coded language might seem harmless, it has profound implications for the understanding and management of menstrual health. Language, they said, holds immense power in shaping perceptions and attitudes.

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The statement continued, “By using euphemisms, we inadvertently perpetuate the stigma and secrecy surrounding menstruation. When we avoid real words and replace them with coded language, we send a message that menstruation is something to be hidden and ashamed of. This stigma influences how we talk about, manage, and educate others about menstrual health.”

“The consequences of this cultural silence are extensive. Many women and girls suffer in silence from menstrual-related health issues, too embarrassed to seek help or discuss their symptoms with family or healthcare professionals. This secrecy can lead to untreated conditions, unnecessary pain, and severe health complications. Moreover, the stigma extends beyond menstruation, affecting our approach to other aspects of women’s health. It fosters a culture where important health issues are cloaked in secrecy and shame, preventing us from supporting each other and advocating for better health resources and education,” the statement added.

Binti, however, urged open discussions about menstruation within families and communities, adding that parents, especially mothers, should talk to their daughters about menstruation, preparing them for what to expect and how to handle it.

They further urged women and girls to support each other by sharing their experiences and advice, creating a supportive community that reduces feelings of isolation and embarrassment.

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Binti advocates for better menstrual health policies and resources. These include ensuring access to affordable period products, proper facilities in schools and workplaces, and incorporating menstrual health into the national health agenda.

On the occasion of Menstrual Health Day, Binti challenges communities to change the narrative around menstruation in The Gambia by reclaiming words, educating others, and fostering open conversations to break the stigma and improve menstrual health for all women and girls.

“Menstruation is a natural biological process that should be understood, respected, and managed with dignity. Together, we can create a culture where menstrual health is no longer a source of shame but a celebrated aspect of our collective health and well-being. Let us move forward with courage and compassion, breaking the silence and building a healthier, more informed society,” the statement ended.

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