Lthe fight against gender discrimination can begin with a menstrual slip, in animal tissue, salmon pink or with laces. It happens in Nicaraguathe second poorest country in Central America (after Haiti): “Here the cycle is a taboo,” says Tiziana Rossetti, a representative of WeWorld, an organization committed for 50 years to guaranteeing women’s rights, girls and boys in 25 countries around the world).
“It’s to the point that‘ in those days ’women stop participating in the life of their community. Not only that, as hygienic pads they use old cloths that they wash with dirty water and avoid drying in the sun, out of embarrassment. Infections are the order of the day.
Menstrual panties in Nicaragua? Rose salmon
That is why an Atelier for the production of menstrual shorts, such as the one created by WeWorld (within the #WithHer project, thanks to funding from private donors, from the European Community and with the technical support of Cotonella) can be decisive for his life..
“Women victims of violence work there, welcomed with children in reception centers “, Rossetti continues. “The aim of the workshop is to create a path that allows them, thanks to the skills acquired, to take better care of themselves and their children. Reuse the skills for their own economic independence and involve the rest of the communities for a cultural change ”.
Sexual violence against minors in Nicaragua
Sexual violence against children, especially in the family, is a very serious problem in the Caribbean area: “There is a lot of promiscuity in families and violence by parents and bosses, siblings and uncles is common. And the rate of impunity is very highSays Rossetti.
You can understand why: the indigenous communities of Miskite culture, the dominant one in this area of the country, are small, we all know each other, and relatives shield the aggressor. In addition, they are far from each other, and from urban centers, so reporting violence is also a logistical task. Trials are long and costly for victims.
“That is why it is essential to build safety nets, but even more so Raise awareness among community leaders, so that they support women in the reporting processRossetti continues. “We often have the ‘whista’, the head of the Miskite people, a great ally: he is the authority, rather than the police, he is the one who accepts the young woman’s complaint and can punish the aggressor.”
Extravagant menstrual panties, to stretch in the sun without shame
After reporting and protection, the reintegration phase is crucial. “At the Menstrual Panties Workshop, women learn to produce comfortable, practical but above all beautiful panties: they can finally wear them with pride and they will not be ashamed to hang them in the sun because thanks to the bright colors they will mix with the rest of the clothes.Rossetti explains.
Very often women in rural Nicaragua use cloths made of old clothes as absorbents. Once used, they wash them inside the houses without putting them in the sun because they are embarrassed. Sometimes they are washed with too much chlorine or dirty water. Land patches, not properly cleaned, often cause irritation and infections.
The cycle, due to school dropout
“WeWorld’s commitment is, therefore, on the hygienic-sanitary front, but also on the cultural one: in the indigenous Miskite culture. when women have periods they cannot touch the springs of water or cultivate the land because they are considered dirty and are believed to transmit diseases.“.
Girls don’t go to school because they make fun of it and are afraid of getting dirty due to inadequate infrastructure. “Lack of water and clean, safe and separate toilets make menstruation really difficult to manage outside the home.Rossetti continues. The result is that girls miss between 10% and 20% of classes per period: absences that, in some cases, become school dropouts.
A clean bathroom, a mirage for many young girls
In the world, 1 in 3 people do not have access to a bathroom, neither private nor public. Where they are, they do not fit the needs of women and girls. That’s why WeWorld is promoting WASH approach (water, sanitation and hygiene) in schools to improve the participation and self-esteem of students, but also of teachers who do not run the risk of staying home during the menstrual cycle.
Young people against taboos on the impurity of women
WeWorld ‘s sexual and reproductive health awareness work in Nicaragua clashes with one deeply rooted traditional culture. “What we do is give communities elements to think about,” Rossetti says. “If the elderly are suspicious, young people are very receptive and they question the taboos that have been passed on, for example about the impurity of women“But the road is long and cannot be forced.
The same can be said of the very high incidence of early pregnancies: “Girls get pregnant easily at 12, 13 and maybe 20 with 5 children from different parents: it is in the interest of women to change this situation but, again, it is a cultural change that must take place at the right times for that community ”.
The future of Nicaraguan menstrual panties
The menstrual shorts of Miskito women are just prototypes today: “But we are sure that we will soon be able to exhibit them at local fairs. They could then be purchased by international organizations that could put them in hygiene kits to be distributed in communities. And, why not, it will also be sold in the local market, also through social networks ». The road is long but … salmon pink.
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