Upholding the dignity of displaced girls and women during conflict
“I wore black during those days and sat in the dormitory almost all day. It felt like a prison.”
14-year-old Malaz lives in a dormitory at a temporary gathering for internally displaced people together with her family.
Today they are safe after a horrendous journey from Khartoum where they once lived. The traumatic experiences then and the struggles they endured while settling down in their new home are fresh in her memory.
While they fled the shelling that characterized the earlier days of the conflict days, even when they finally found a peaceful place, they continued to struggle daily. For three days, they slept on the street before identifying a dormitory that they now call home.
“Challenges awaited us at every corner,” Malaz said.
Their lives had taken a dramatic turn after the conflict.
With most of their belongings left behind, Malaz and her sister would face yet another challenge. While others were struggling with the impact of the conflict, Malaz was coping with the challenges that menstruation would later pose.
Back home, their parents provided for everything including sanitary towels that the girls needed monthly to support their menstrual hygiene. She enjoyed privacy during her periods. She had been told to bathe frequently and observe hygiene during these days. Unfortunately, this was no more. Instead, there was no private bathroom, inadequate water, no soap and very few sanitary pads, making the already difficult experience unbearable for Malaz.
The absence of adequate bathing areas for hundreds of people and sanitary facilities made Malaz and other adolescent girls and women vulnerable and stripped them of their dignity.
“I would wait for hours to go to the bathroom whenever I was on my period,” she recalled.
“I wore black during those days and sat in the dormitory almost all day. It felt like a prison,”
Her worst moment was the day she was left with only two sanitary towels. They were not enough.
“I couldn’t stop crying. It was very heartbreaking.”
Not even her mother could support obtain additional sanitary pads now that she is displaced, unemployed and lacks resources to purchase these critical supplies for all her teenage daughters. It was a challenging situation for the girls.
UNICEF dignity kits arrive at the gathering point
Recently, UNICEF teams arrived at the gathering point now home to Malaz and her family and distributed kits that have restored their dignity as well as addressed the stress associated with menstruation.
During emergencies, UNICEF procures and delivers menstrual hygiene materials to support women and girls who have lost their possessions or cannot acquire these products.
With the kits, Malaz and all the other adolescent girls have access to a range of menstrual materials and supporting supplies, like soap, underwear and pain relief that allows them practice good menstrual health and hygiene even during emergencies.
The girls can now manage their menstrual periods safely and with dignity. What a relief.
“I used to cater to all their requirements during menstruation. I lost my work following the conflict and my financial resources have run out. I have therefore advised them to use the sanitary pads carefully,” Malaz’s mother noted.
During the distribution exercise, the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Social Behavioral Communications (SBC) teams promoted menstrual hygiene, destigmatized it and provided guidance on the use of the dignity kits.
“Girls are suffering from inadequate supplies for use during menstruation. During emergencies, access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene products often becomes limited or disrupted. Menstrual hygiene products, such as reusable sanitary pads, are essential for maintaining personal cleanliness and preventing infections or other health issues associated with poor menstrual hygiene,” Gama'a El Noor, UNICEF health, nutrition and WASH programme Associate noted.
While Malaz, awaits peace to return so she and her family can go back home, today she choses to celebrate the small wins that came through the UNICEF dignity kits. Together with her friends, they can afford a smile. Managing their periods has not only become better, but also healthier. The kits have also empowered them to engage in other activities.
“I feel happy and safe now. No more worries about menstruation,” Malaz shared.