Ideologies of Sexuality, Menstruation and Risk:
Girls’ Experiences of Puberty and Schooling in Northern Tanzania
This paper voices girls’ experiences of menstruation, puberty, and schooling in northern Tanzania.
Ideologies of Sexuality, Menstruation and Risk: Girls’ Experiences of Puberty and Schooling in Northern Tanzania
Sommer, M. 2009. “Ideologies of Sexuality, Menstruation and Risk: Girls’ Experiences of Puberty and Schooling in Northern Tanzania.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 11 (4): 383-398. doi:10.1080/13691050902722372 [doi].
LMICs, Tanzania, school girls, adolescents, health, HIV, awareness, education
Type of Research
Peer-reviewed, Qualitative research
- The in-depth interviews and participatory activities show that, as in other studies in sub-Saharan Africa, girls are transitioning through puberty with inadequate knowledge and pragmatic information about how to manage menses in school environments; how to understand the emotional and physical changes occurring within their bodies; and how to navigate new sexual pressures arising from boys and men
- The findings emphasize the importance of engaging girls through participatory methodologies in order to create a picture of girls’ voiced experiences and interactions in transitioning through puberty in school.
Identified Research Gaps
- Research that simultaneously empowers and engages girls in exploring both the internal (emotional) and external (peers, family, community, school environment) dynamics of the critical transition from girlhood to womanhood is strongly recommended.
- Further empirical data on girls’ menstrual management experiences, documenting the social structural realities of girls’ experiences of menses and schooling in different countries, is essential for prioritizing government resources.
- There is a need for a paradigm shift in the provision of such guidance given the overburdened school systems in many sub-Saharan African countries, utilizing new technologies (for example, sending SMS messages on cell phones) and tapping into external sources for puberty training (for example, nursing students)
- The sexual-related questions, concerns and pressures that emerged from the puberty questions and interviews provide a critical insight into the shortage of girls’ present sources of information and a source of alarm for the insufficiency of HIV prevention strategies currently being utilized
- The growing research on young people’s sexuality in Africa should incorporate the internal confusing emotions girls are struggling to understand, acknowledging the normalcy of girls’ sexual desires and exploring ways in which to empower girls to negotiate more effectively for safe sex.