28 May - Menstrual Hygiene Day

Making menstrual hygiene management a priority worldwide

In many societies, menstruation is surrounded by stigma and misinformation. Inadequate menstrual hygiene management (MHM) directly affects women’s and girls’ self-esteem, health and education. 70% of girls in India have not heard about menstruation prior to menarche.

Initiated by WASH United in 2014, Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) builds awareness of the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management plays in helping women and girls reach their full potential. In 2016 we want to move beyond celebrating just one day and build a powerful movement that drives change around MHM all year round.

MH Day – shining a spotlight on menstrual hygiene

In only two years, WASH United has forged an alliance of currently 340 partners worldwide – including WaterAid, Save the Children and USAID – who join forces to foster policy change, fight stigma and educate girls about menstruation. 2015 MH Day saw 127 events implemented in 33 countries. In Kenya for example, the Ministry of Health announced the creation of a national MHM policy. In India, two new studies on MHM were published. High-level stakeholder discussions, exhibitions, rallies and educational sessions took place all over the world. MH Day was featured in major media outlets such as the Guardian, MTV and The Huffington Post. The celebrations sparked conversation around the world about a topic that many people previously felt uncomfortable talking about.

Moving beyond celebrating just one day in 2016

Advocacy work requires constant attention and awareness quickly fades when an issue is pushed only once a year. Our ambition for 2016/2017 is to build a coalition that drives change around MHM all year round. Acting as the secretariat of the MH Day alliance, WASH United is uniquely positioned to help accelerate awareness of MHM both at global and at country level. We will primarily support the local partners on three levels:

  • Advocacy: providing attractive awareness and advocacy tools
  • Networking: bringing partners together to strengthen national level work
  • Knowledge sharing: creating online communication tools for exchange

Our MH Day activities are complemented by our on-going work around MHM:

MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT TRAINING CURRICULUM

WASH United has recently finalized a unique play-based training curriculum with holistic education materials about the biology of menstruation, hygienic management and breaking taboos and myths around it. The curriculum has already been tested with 4,000 girls in India and Kenya.

POLICY WORK

WASH United works closely with governments to develop national policies on MHM. In India, we worked with UNICEF to help draft national MHM guidelines, which came into effect in December 2015. A similar project is underway in Kenya. Bringing in experiences from our own work, and benefitting effectively from our network of partners, we provide extensive and up-to-date knowledge on MHM and help to translate the policy into a local adaptation.

Why menstruation matters

The silence around menstruation, as well as the lack of access to sanitation facilities and hygienic absorbents in developing countries, directly affect women’s and adolescent girls’ self-esteem, health and education.

  • School attendance: 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school during menses (UNESCO).
  • Access to hygiene products: In India, up to 80% of girls use old cloths as absorbents.
  • Health: Vaginal infections are 70% more likely when using unhygienic materials.
  • Stigmatization and insecurity: In rural Nepal, women and girls are forced to sleep in separate sheds while menstruating.

Read more about this on www.menstrualhygieneday.org.