On May 28th, we celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day, an annual awareness day aimed at promoting good Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) practices and breaking the stigma surrounding menstruation. The selection of May 28th as the date to celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day has an interesting backstory. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) notes that the menstrual cycle for females is typically 28 days long, and the date was chosen to represent this cycle. Additionally, the average period lasts for five days, and the fifth month of the year is May. Thus, May 28th is celebrated to symbolize the changes that occur in the female body during menstruation.
Initiated by the German-based NGO, WASH United in 2014, it is now celebrated in over 140 countries around the world. The purpose is to promote understanding and action on menstrual hygiene, access to menstrual products, appropriate sanitation facilities, and accurate information about menstrual health and hygiene, thereby focusing on a range of activities including awareness campaigns, educational workshops and seminars, and advocacy events.
The theme changes each year to highlight a specific aspect of menstrual hygiene management. Here are some of the past themes:
2022: Making Menstruation a Normal Part of Life by 2030
2021: Action and Investment in Menstrual Equity
2020: Periods in Pandemics
Menstrual Hygiene Management refers to the practices used by women to manage their menstrual health in a safe, hygienic, and dignified manner. It encompasses the range of activities and materials used to absorb and manage menstrual blood, as well as the personal and social aspects of menstruation.
MHM involves several key components, including access to safe and affordable menstrual products, sanitation facilities for disposal and washing, and accurate information and education about menstrual health and hygiene. It also involves addressing the stigma and cultural taboos surrounding menstruation, and promoting gender equality and women’s rights. Effective MHM is essential for the health, well-being, and dignity of women. Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to a range of negative health outcomes, including infections, discomfort, and reproductive health issues.
Menstruation is often stigmatized and surrounded by taboos, particularly in certain cultures and communities. There are challenges associated which requires a multi-faceted approach that includes education, policy change, and investment in resources and infrastructure, particularly in underdeveloped and developing countries. MHM is important for several reasons including:
- Health: Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to a range of negative health outcomes, including reproductive tract infections, urinary tract infections, and other conditions that can affect both short-term and long-term health. Many individuals lack access to safe and affordable menstrual products, such as pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. This can lead to the use of unhygienic materials, such as rags, leaves, or even soil, which can increase the risk of infection. The risk of these health problems can reduce by practicing good menstrual hygiene.
- Dignity: Menstruation is a natural process, and women should be able to manage it with dignity and respect. Many girls and women lack accurate information about menstrual health and hygiene, which can lead to misconceptions and myths thereby contributing to stigma and shame which in turn makes it difficult for women to seek help or access resources.
- Education: Poor menstrual hygiene can also contribute to absenteeism and school dropout rates among girls, as well as limiting their participation in social and economic activities. Inadequate sanitation facilities, particularly in schools and other public places, can make it difficult for individuals to manage their periods safely and with dignity. The lack of private and hygienic spaces for changing and washing can also contribute to stigma and shame. By ensuring access to appropriate facilities, and accurate information about menstrual health and hygiene, girls and women can continue their education and achieve their full potential.
- Gender Equality: MHM is essential for promoting gender equality and women’s rights. Ensuring that girls and women have access to the resources they need to manage their periods with dignity and respect is an important step towards achieving gender equality.
It becomes challenging to provide the necessary resources and support to those in need due to lack of policy and funding for menstrual hygiene management programmes.
Jaipur based PraveenLata Sansthan (PLS), is doing incredible work in the areas of MHM. HelpYourNGO is proud to be a supporter of the NGO’s efforts in providing a life of dignity to women.
PLS focuses on reducing poverty through supporting the empowerment of women and girls from underprivileged and marginalised communities. It works for behavioural, social & economic transformation of girls and women by providing them community based solutions in the areas of education, health and sustainable livelihood.
‘Spotless Dame’ – the NGO’s flagship program – is a capacity building initiative on menstrual hygiene management and sanitation. As part of the program, the NGO organizes awareness workshops on menstrual hygiene and distributes menstrual hygiene kit comprising of hand towel, soap, instruction manual and a set of reusable, eco-friendly sanitary pads that last for 5 years! The focus is more on educating the beneficiaries about the biological changes in their bodies and taking necessary action required for the same – rather than falling prey to old customs and blind faith, myths and taboos surrounding the sensitive topic of menstruation. The impact of the program has been manifold in locations where it has been implemented. Some of the key indicators being reduction in school dropouts, more confident girls, better awareness in managing menstrual hygiene, and reduction in child marriages cases. What’s more! These pads are manufactured by girls from the local community, thereby providing them with livelihood opportunities.
The Founder, Bharti Singh Chauhan, has been felicitated by the President of India in recognition of her work and her innovation – the Reusable Bamboo Charcoal based Cloth Pad – has won several global accolades.