Akros Staffer, Anne Mutunda, to make presentation at Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in Boston
[icon size=”16″]icon-camera[/icon] Anne Mutunda (far right) celebrates the 1 million new users of sanitation milestone with her W.A.S.H. colleagues at the Akros offices in November. Mutunda will present on her research at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in Boston this June.
World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 each year as a global health awareness day that also marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization, established in 1948. For the past two years, this day has also marked the start of World Health Worker Week, a weeklong celebration of the inspiring health workers who make health care possible. This is also a week to celebrate health workers who provide health care in the hardest to reach places, often compromising their own comfort for the sake of health equity.
Anne Mutunda, an Akros Water & Sanitation Health (WASH) Surveillance Officer, has been invited to make a presentation during the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research to be held at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston from June 4 – 6. “I am very happy to be invited to this conference, I feel delighted as this will make me known in the international research community as a subject-matter expert in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Mutunda.
She was awarded the invite after responding to a call for abstracts issued by the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research last year. Her abstract was centered on a qualitative exploratory study she conducted during her Master in Public Health studies at the University of Western Cape (UWC) in 2012 titled “Factors impacting on the menstrual hygiene among school going adolescent girls in Mongu District, Zambia”.
The study explores the factors influencing the understanding, experiences and practices of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in secondary schools. The research reveals that the girls’ inadequate understanding of the menstrual process prior to the onset of menarche was due to cultural beliefs and taboos associated with menstruation. Other factors found to be impacting menstrual hygiene were inadequate water supply and gender-unfriendly sanitation facilities in schools and homes. Poverty, both personal and structural, emerged as important socio-economic barriers and impacted negatively on the menstrual hygiene practices adopted by the girls.
The study among other things makes recommendations to the Zambia Ministry of Education to include menstrual hygiene and management in the school curricula for both primary and secondary school levels, and provide financial support for girls requiring it.
Menstrual hygiene management is an issue that has far reaching implications for hygiene, education and gender in developing countries. The UNDP and UNICEF have highlighted menstruation as “the single most important factor affecting school drop-out among girls” (2007), impeding the educational attainment that would facilitate social empowerment and financial independence around the globe.
The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary research organization that holds biennial meetings featuring presentations of the latest research by members. Its membership includes researchers in the social and health sciences, humanities scholars, health care providers, policy makers, health activists, artists and students with interests in the role of the menstrual cycle in women’s health and well-being.
Anne joined Akros in August 2013 as a WASH Surveillance Officer. “One of the highlights of my career with Akros was being part of team-spirited employees that reached 1,000,000 new beneficiaries from the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme in the 20 districts where Akros is working in 2014,” said Anne.
Asked what motivated her to undertake such research, Anne said having worked on programmes related to water and sanitation as well as school health services in rural areas, she came across a variety of factors impacting on girls’ menstrual hygiene, and finally infringing on their human rights. She added that among the factors, the most prominent were personal and institutional poverty, inadequate water and sanitation facilities, as well as taboos and cultural constraints. “The above awoke my “inquisitive mind” and triggered my research interest,” said Anne.
Anne has in the past worked with the Zambia Ministry of Health and organisations such as USAID, UNDP and DANIDA. She was in 2014 nominated for the Jakes Gerwel Award by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) School of Public Health in cooperation with The Mauerberger Foundation. This was in honor of the same study she had undertaken on menstrual hygiene during her Masters of Public Health studies. The university each year honors a graduate of the school for the outstanding work he or she has demonstrated in the field of public health.
Anne was also honored as the most dedicated worker in Monze District Management Board by the Zambia Federation of Employers the 2001.
Learn more about how your organization can be involved in World Health Worker Week with this toolkit.
About Maswabi Precious Matantilo
Precious Matantilo is an Advocacy and Communications Officer for Akros and is a Global Health Corps fellow for 2014/2015. Before joining Akros, Precious worked for the Commonwealth Youth Programme as programmes assistant. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies from the Zambian Open University.