World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018

Good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays a key role in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. Despite being a common and healthy bodily function, menstruation continues to compromise women’s basic human rights in many parts of the world due to gender discrimination and poor hygiene conditions.

Too many women and girls still lack access to menstrual supplies and/or a safe toilet with safe water to clean themselves in privacy. They also experience stigma in many cases, where discriminatory cultural norms or practices make it difficult for women and girls to maintain good menstrual hygiene. Women and girls who lack access to safe, private and respectful menstrual hygiene may miss school or work, be ostracized by their families or treated in humiliating ways by their communities, furthering marginalizing them socially, economically and politically.

World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28) seeks to break the silence and overcome the discrimination women face during menstruation. International Medical Corps is helping do just that in communities across the world in which we work, including Zimbabwe, Somalia, Nepal, Yemen, Ethiopia and Cameroon. Our activities include delivering sanitary pads, clean underwear and soap to women and girls living in displacement camps; providing menstrual hygiene education, training and awareness-raising programs; and facilitating life skills activities on topics such as menstrual hygiene for girls, reproductive health and gender equality.

In Zimbabwe, for example, our menstrual hygiene awareness program in the community of Tokwana included a discussion session in which local field staff shared sanitation and hygiene tips with women and girls. We then invited traditional leadership to participate in the conversation and discussed cultural beliefs and taboos around menstruation. When male leadership expressed the belief that menstruation is a strictly female matter, a gender specialist from our partnering organization MWAGCD (whose mandate is to empower women and girls) shared with them the consequences of a lack of sanitary wear. These include girls missing school activities, poor performance in school, low self-esteem, dropping out and even health threats. Since most traditional leaders are also members of school faculties, they were encouraged to provide pads in the first aid kit for whenever a student is in need of sanitary wear during school hours, minimizing missing of lessons because of menstruation. The awareness-training program culminated in participants sharing their own experiences and testimonials.

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