Jakes Gerwel Award in Public Health 2016 – Anne Mutunda
An environmental health practitioner by training, Anne Mutunda works as a water and sanitation health surveillance officer with Akros in Zambia.
She graduated with a Master of Public Health (MPH) in 2013, focussing her research on exploring the factors influencing the understandings, experiences and practices of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in Mongu District in the Western Province of Zambia.
Her thesis found that inadequate information and a lack of knowledge and awareness about the ‘coming of age’ was influenced by cultural beliefs and taboos associated with menstruation. Other factors which impacted on menstrual hygiene were poverty (both personal and structural), gender discrimination, inadequate water supply, and gender-unfriendly sanitation facilities in schools and homes.
The recommendations made in her thesis have been taken up by her organisation, resulting in a pilot programme with the Ministry of General Education to build 853 latrines equipped with menstrual hygiene management facilities. Further, Anne is involved in piloting a mobile-to-web education management information system through which weaknesses in menstrual hygiene management and hand washing practices at schools, among others, are logged and then shared with school authorities, traditional leaders and communities to enable them to intervene appropriately. Anne Mutunda received the 2016 Award for her sustained community-based work and for highlighting the under-focussed area of menstrual hygiene, a public health issue which has not generally been considered by authorities and policy makers.