HEARD’s SRHR Programme lead and senior research fellow, Dr Tamaryn Crankshaw, recently participated in the virtual Africa Coalition Symposium on Menstrual Health, held on 25th-27th May and organized by the African Coalition on Menstrual Health Management in collaboration with UNFPA. The webinar was an opportunity for experts to share research findings, experiences and progress towards the goal of improving menstrual, sexual and reproductive health in Africa.

The South African-led session on Day 2 was one of three country-led satellite sessions held during the Symposium, it included a panel of key stakeholders, researchers and focussed on a holistic approach to menstrual health. In this session and based on research conducted by HEARD in collaboration with the Legal Resource Centre, Dr Crankshaw was asked to share lessons learnt in improving menstrual health in schools holistically.

Dr Crankshaw indicated that a targeted, consistent, and sustainable formal school sanitary products distribution programme is important in supporting key groups of learners. However, she noted the critical importance of this programme being “situated in an iterative, high quality and consistently applied comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights educational programme for both female and male learners”. Linked to this, is the need to support educators to provide accurate and appropriate SRH information, underpinned by gender sensitization and values clarification training. Menstrual-related pain was the most common challenge reported by female learners in the study but few schools had suitable spaces for the learners to temporarily rest and recover was another lesson learnt.
Finally, Dr Crankshaw emphasised the need for functional and female-friendly toilet facilities, including adequate and environmentally sound waste disposal systems, for schools.