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Training of women on menstrual hygiene in Ethiopia
Globally, more than three billion people lack basic sanitation services, which can have dire consequences for women and girls in particular, as those lacking access to toilets and water are more vulnerable to poor menstrual hygiene and the potentially grave health risks that result. In Ethiopia, 72% of women and girls say they’re unable to manage their menstruation with dignity. AFD is therefore backing Care Ethiopia’s ambitious project to improve menstrual health. We take a closer look in the approach to Menstrual Hygeine Day on 28 May.

Pain management and proper disposal   

In Adama, Ethiopia’s third biggest city, it’s 7:30 AM and the waiting room at the health center in the middle of town is already full.  

As the mostly women await their appointments, Adama Health Center's Assistant Director, Ashibir Kita, interrupts the silence to begin a 20-minute presentation on menstruation, covering everything from the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, to pain relief and various forms of sanitary protection and disposal. 

"Many people don't know about this,” says employee Gadisie Regassoe, 20. “Especially how to dispose of their sanitary pads without contaminating the environment. Now I can share this knowledge with my community."

But no sooner has the presentation begun, than Guta Melka, a flamboyant 32 year-old rises to his feet. "The men have to leave, right?" 

Ashibir Kita answers with a smile, "men are encouraged to stay."

Health center teams like this one were recently trained as part of a project implemented by CARE Ethiopia and financed by AFD. Adama Health Center is one of 18 such centers and clinics where training will be provided every two weeks for three years.

Awareness about menstrual health is also being raised on weekly radio programs.  The aim is to reach some 324,000 people over the next three years.  

"I thought this topic didn't concern me, but it's quite the opposite!" says Guta Melka as the session comes to a close. "I have an 11-year-old niece at home, so I'll now be able to accompany her much better during her first period, and in case she's in pain."

From clinics to schools 

The project extends far beyond the training provided of health professionals to schools and other organizations. "The girls' toilets used to be quite dilapidated, with no doors or sinks to wash their hands," says Derege Worku, principal of a school on the outskirts of Adama. "Some girls didn’t have access to sanitary pads, and could sometimes drop out of school because of the shame they felt. Others were washing with contaminated water and could develop infections.”

Since then, the situation in this school and in 24 others have improved: latrines have been built, workshops are held and protection kits are being  distributed. 

Developing a solid and sustainable industry

With less than a third of the 50 million women in Ethiopia with satisfactory access to menstrual hygiene products, a new project has just been signed. It aims to give girls and women sustainable access to good quality, affordable and ecological menstrual hygiene products, by developing the commercial chain.

"We are proud to support this new project, which should benefit 500,000 women," said Valérie Tehio, AFD's Director in Ethiopia, "by giving them access to and choice in sanitary protection, while developing and distributing sustainable and reusable quality options."

A public-private platform will be set up to remove market constraints and develop biodegradable menstrual hygiene products. The project will be implemented by CARE France and its partners (CARE Ethiopia, EiTEX) as well as a private sector consultant.