Meet the Black woman educating girls on menstrual health in Africa


Nomcebo Mkhaliphi is a campaigner for menstrual health in Swaziland, Southern Africa. She works tirelessly to educate young girls about menstruation and the importance of understanding their bodies. She took time out of her busy schedule to tell Afrowoman Online about why she is so passionate about supporting young Black girls to love their bodies:

A campaign removing any stigma about menstruation

What country do you live in? Tell us about your background:

I live in Swaziland, Southern Africa. I am an adult Swazi female, from a very poor background in a small community and blessed with two sons and a daughter. I am a third born out of five, three sisters and a brother but due to life circumstances both my parents and the elder sister are deceased. I did my primary and high school in our local community school. I worked for a company which closed down and I felt it was time to rekindle my passion- helping girls understand MENSTRUATION and deal with the stigma and shame associated with PERIODS.

You’ve been campaigning for a long time for menstrual health education for girls – How did you get started with your campaign? What influenced it?

Growing up in my family and community was not easy. I may say somethings more especially a “girl child’s life” was kept hidden nor a secret. When growing up I did not have PADS to protect myself during MENSTRUATION due to a believe our parents had so my sisters and I were forced to use old newspapers, rags which was not healthy and I have so many bad experiences. I remember one time in high school I had a heavy flow and blotted on my school skirt, everybody laughed at me, they started calling me all sort of names you could think of for a long time. This really broke my heart and had less confidence after that incident. Being subjected to period stigma is not good at all and I do not wish such could happen to anyone even on my worst enemy. I told myself that one day God willing I would like to help to young GIRLS to overcome the unnecessary stigma surrounding PERIODS, have self-confidence as a young growing woman and to provide sanitary pads. So my experience influenced me to start the campaign and it is really heart-warming to see smiles on these girls because it reminds me of how bubbly I was before everything happened.

Her African experience of periods

What was it like for you growing up and learning about your periods?

As I mentioned growing up was very hard for me, I knew nothing at all about PERIODS up until I started when I was 14. Nobody told me about the changes and what will happen to my body when I reach a certain age. Imagine blood coming out not knowing what was going on. So many things were in my mind, I thought I would die, I did not know whether there was a wound somewhere, so education about MENSTRUATION is key and it changes everything. PERIODS should not be a barrier for GIRLS to be absent from school due to lack of PADS, it should not stop them from learning and reaching their full potential.

Why African girls need this campaign

Why is this topic/campaign so close to your heart?

The topic is very close to me because I know hard it is not to have PADS to protect yourself, the unnecessary stigma surrounding PERIODS (e.g some people think you are dirty or cursed) yet PERIODS are normal and a natural call and imagine I used old newspapers and rags to protect myself. When referencing, nowadays, there’s a lot of sicknesses you could get by using such items,

Who works on the campaign? What does it involve?

I work with my daughter most of the time, sometimes with my boys and sisters. There are times where I am alone and I would ask assistance from the girls. Firstly, I talk about my first encounter which was not at all pleasant, I stained my school uniform and I was subjected to PERIOD stigma, tell them that there is nothing to be ashamed of PERIODS are normal, should feel free to talk about PERIODS openly, they should be proud of their bodies, cleanliness, distribution of PADS and taking of pictures. If we have so much time on that particular day, they share their stories too.

Do you have a typical day – what’s your schedule like?

My day start at 5:30 am, do my chores and then hit the road to break the unnecessary stigma surrounding PERIODS.

Running her menstrual health campaign

Where do you go to spread the campaign and how do you get there?

Sometimes I board a bus and sometimes I walk depending to where I am meeting the GIRLS. I used to go to schools but now I am more into the communities.

Where do you source supplies and do you receive funding? My twitter friends/supporters donate through a GoFundMe and I am able to buy the PADS, towels & soaps and fruits for GIRLS in local shops.

How has you community recived your campaign? Are you met with opposition? My community has received me very well, they are happy with what I do especially because some parents cannot afford to provide for their GIRLS with PADS. I have not met any difficulties as yet instead they are encouraging me to continue what I am doing because of its importance. I am happy that even boys and some men are getting involved and encourage me. GIRLS’ self-esteem and confidence has been boosted which is really good.

Do you work with schools or families in the communities?

I used to go to schools voluntary but now I am more into the communities.

For the girls – how has your relationship developed with them? Are you providing support that a mother or an aunt would provide?

My relationship with the GIRLS has developed over the years and it is good. They are very free and open to talk about PERIODS now, ask for advice, and anything to me. We bond very well and their happiness says a lot, they are more like my sisters and daughters. Some say they look up to me and wish to do what I do when they grow up so they can help other GIRLS. It is so humbling to hear all these words.

Her message to Black women and girls

What message do you want the girls to receive from your campaign? My message to the GIRLS is for them to hold their heads up high, be bold, be confident and feel free to talk about PERIODS openly without feeling ashamed.

What message do you want to give to Black girls and women in general about their bodies? My message to the BLACK GIRLS AND WOMEN is, to love our bodies, be bold, be proud of who we are and we are BEAUTIFUL just the way we are.

What do you have planned for your campaign in the future?

I want it to be bigger and better, I want more people to get involved and keep the conversation going about PERIODS and to be able to reach as many GIRLS and WOMEN far and wide. God willing, I wish PADS can be free and easily accessible for all the GIRLS and WOMEN. I also wish that people could learn one or two things from me to also spread the word just like I do. This campaign is really good for everyone to do because the more the hands joined the more the message will be received out there. The more we talk about PERIODS openly the more we normalize hearing about them.

How to find out more about the campaign

How can we find out more and donate to your campaign? You can find me on twitter @nomcebo_mkhali and for donation my GoFundMe is on my bio.

It is important that we also educate boys so that they understand that MENSTRUATION is a normal process that GIRLS and WOMEN go through every month and make them understand that girls should not be discriminated against because of it. “I am against the use of stigmatizing words such as referring to MENSTRUATION as dirty, unclean, a curse”

Together we can #StopTheStigma #MenstruationMatters #Pads

#Afrowomanonline #Blackwomenshealth #Blackgirlsmenstruation

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