Publication: Girlhood to Womanhood - Experiences of adolescent girls at menarche in Papua New Guinea

Girlhood to Womanhood - Experiences of adolescent girls at menarche in Papua New Guinea.
Gumbaketi E, Gunnarsson R, Larkins S, Rembeck G.
Cairns, Australia: Individual Self-esteem and Transition to Adolescence with Respect (ISTAR); 2013.



\r\nMenarche, the first menstruation is a significant bio-marker of sexual and reproductive maturation for females. Experiences at menarche are socially and culturally constructed. Sexuality, sexual risky behaviours and sexual health issues are found to be difficult topics of discussion around this stage. Consequently, unpreparedness before menarche leaves young girls of being vulnerable to social/sexual risks and consequences. \r\nCulture specific understanding of the experiences at menarche is essential in the development of targeted educational intervention programs to address salient issues affecting adolescent girls in transition to womanhood. Papua New Guinea is a country with over 800 different cultures, social groups and languages. None of previous studies have been conducted in Papua New Guinea. This study aims to explore the experiences of adolescent girls at menarche in Papua New Guinea.\r\n\r\n


\r\nThe key informants were recruited from four locations; Western Highlands Province, Miline Bay Province, East Sepik Province and National Capital District in Papua New Guinea. The key informants gave accounts of their lived experiences at menarche in their own words.\r\nTwo focus group interviews (FG) took place in each of the four study sites. The first FG involved young post-menarcheal girls and women aged 15-25 years. The second focus group involved women aged 35 years and beyond. Apart from sharing their experiences at menarche, they were also guided to share personnel experiences of how they assisted their daughter’s transition at menarche. Each FG lasted for approximately 30-90 minutes.\r\n\r\n


\r\nMost girls / women expressed they experienced some kind of ceremony or rite of passage at menarche. It was often perceived as harsh but also valuable stimulating maturation. They expressed sadness that these rituals are not any longer performed and they are concerned their daughters may miss this. Teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol use and social problems and lack of responsibility were mentioned as consequences of missing out on the rite of passage.\r\n\r\n


\r\nThis study suggests there might be dangers with losing traditions. Old traditions should be reinstated or perhaps gradually be transformed into modern versions of the old traditions. This study will inform the development and evaluation of a contemporary educational program for girls around sexuality, sexual risks and consequences.

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