Breaking the taboo around period poverty in Ghana | Media and Information Literacy | DW | 14.12.2023
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Breaking the taboo around period poverty in Ghana

Many girls in Ghana can't afford menstrual products. A recent DW Akademie training encouraged young people to discuss sexual and reproductive health.

"When I first got my period, my mother cut a cloth for me to use," Abena Benewaa Fosu explained during a sexual and reproductive health rights event in Accra, Ghana.

Benewaa's experience is common in the country, especially among lower-income families. Known as period poverty, many girls lack basic sanitary materials, such as menstrual pads and tampons.

Yet the taboo subject tends to go undiscussed in society.

But at a recent DW Akademie training and panel discussion, young women and activists discussed ways to destigmatize the issue and advocate for a more affordable menstrual products. The project focuses on education and ground-up change in society.

"The training on media and information literacy and sexual and reproductive health is a first step to combine both topics to not only educate about rights, but also to teach skills to obtain safe information and create media content," explained Laura Schröder, a DW Akademie project manager.

A woman speaks at a conference

Abena Benewaa Fosu is the founder and director of the sexual and reproductive health non-profit Yebetumi

Changing period poverty

The three-day training drew nine participants who discussed sexual and reproductive health rights with experts, and learned where they can get and share reliable information. The young women also examined issues like body autonomy, gender stigmatization and standing up against sexual harassment.

"With the information I have gained, I'm going to create awareness on my social media platforms on sexual and reproductive health rights and also educate my peers and all those I find within my circle to be bodily autonomous and stand for their rights," said participant Stephanie Ayavor.

The project's aim includes training younger women as information multipliers since many young people turn to social media to find more information on sexual and reproductive health issues.

A woman on stage speaks into a microphone at an event in Accra, Ghana

Ama Pratt is the CEO of the Obaasima Foundation and general manager of Pan African Television

"With friends being the main source of sexual and reproductive health rights information amongst youth, the training has a ripple effect, encompassing friends, social networks and young relatives of participants," said Benewaa, who was both a trainer and a panelist. She is the founder of the non-profit Yebetumi.

A tax on periods

In the panel discussion that followed the training, field experts discussed ways to not only change the conversation, but also the laws around sexual and reproductive health.

Period poverty is a critical issue in Ghana. A march in Junecalled for cheaper menstrual products. Hygiene products are mostly imported and are heavily taxed.

One proposal would revise this taxation nationally, but many agree more can be done.

A man asks a question from the audience at a conference in Ghana

Participants and the public could question experts

Archibald Adams, Oxfam's communications lead and a panelist, believes women's health is still not a national priority. He suggests including men among those affected in terms of family planning.

Experts agree that sexual and reproductive health are more than a personal issue, affecting all of Ghanaian society and, therefore, should be treated as far-reaching.

The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights MIL project took place in November 2023 at Goethe-Institut Ghana and is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).