Changing two lives at a time in Pakistan with tailored menstrual health and hygiene sessions

An intellectually disabled woman sits with her mother and a Transformation Facilitator in a village in Pakistan, she is learning hw to manage her period safely and hygienically

Rifat’s individually tailored session has helped her to manage her period on her own, with confidence (International Rescue Committee, Pakistan)

More than 800 million women and girls across the world are menstruating on any given day.


For Rifat, 23, the challenges in managing her period are even greater due to her intellectual disability. Rifat lives with her family in the northern Pakistan village of Dora, Peshawar. Her widowed mother is responsible for Rifat, her two younger brothers and one sister.  The family has no regular income and depend on her younger brother’s irregular income as a daily labourer, and donations.


Amid this harsh reality, Rifat’s menstruation is another family challenge. Since puberty, 10 years ago, she has had to stay home during her period, her movement restricted. For 10 years she has relied on her mother's help to manage her period.


Dora is an International Rescue Committee (IRC) targeted village, where the organisation’s Transformation Facilitators (TFs) and Inclusive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Jirgas are working to improve hygiene behaviour and accessibility to WASH services. This work is part of their Water for Women project, Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment (LIFE), supported by the Australian Government.


IRC's Transformation Facilitator's at the village level are helping with a range of WASH-related issues, including menstrual health hygiene management (MHH). The challenges of MHH, including access to hygiene products, can adversely affect women and girls’ health, limit their mobility, and reduce household income.


Rifat’s mother went to an IRC training on MHH. It was here that she asked a TF to do an individual session on MHH with her and Rifat, tailored to her daughter’s needs. IRC staff also held a specially tailored session with Rifat’s mother about how to look after Rifat during her period and manage menstrual hygiene. This training has improved both Rifat and her mother's life markedly, helping Rifat gain independence in managing her period with confidence.


The ability of girls and women to manage their monthly menstruation privately, safely and comfortably in an ongoing issue in Pakistan. Menstruating people lack the products and sanitation facilities, including water, to manage their menstrual cycle safely and with dignity. Cultural beliefs and taboos about menstruation also continue to restrict women and girls’ movements and behaviors, so limiting their life opportunities.


The time is over for peripheral programming on menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) in WASH. It is now pivotal, particularly given the context of COVID-19 restrictions, which have exacerbated period poverty and decreased availability and access to hygienic facilities, sanitary products and information to support stigma-free safe and dignified menstruation. The WASH sector has a central role to play in supporting the safe and dignified menstruation management to positively impact the life course of women of all ages and girls worldwide. 


Learn more about how Water for Women partners are making menstrual health and hygiene pivotal in their WASH projects.



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