From June through July 2012, Emory University and UNICEF collaborated in research aimed to understand the range of challenges faced by girls during menstruation in urban Freetown, as well as the determinants of those challenges. This report presents the methods, findings and key programmatic recommendations to address menstruation-related challenges among girls. More than 100 participants were engaged in eight schools and two communities, including teachers and girls, both in school and out of school.
Common challenges during menstruation discussed by girls included: pain; teasing and shame related to revealing menstrual status; leaks, stains and menstruation-related odour; lack of understanding of menstruation; lack of preparedness for menstrual onset; and inability to effectively manage menstrual flow at school. Participants discussed how coping with challenges had negative impacts on education, such as missing or leaving school to manage menses, reducing participation in class, distraction and missed educational opportunities. Such impacts could compromise girls’ abilities to advance in school. Girls also reported itching and concern for infection, self-exclusion from their peers, and misinformation about the reproductive cycle that may put them at risk for unplanned pregnancy.