Creating space and giving voice: menstrual health hygiene and management in Cambodia


Cambodia is pro-actively engaging in menstrual health and hygiene management (MHH). The Ministry of Education approved the MHH/puberty book for all public schools and puberty books for boys on menstruation. The initial reasons for such investments  in education sector were related to retention and enrolment of girls in schools, with one study indicating approximately 41% girls miss class due to their periods. However, equally relevant now is the fact that more than 80% of 500,000 factory workers in Cambodia are rural women who identify MHH as workplace challenges.[1]


What started out in October 2018 by Thrive Networks as sessions to promote hygienic sanitation under the Water-for Women (W4W) funded initiative in Cambodia, grew considerably. Menstrual health and hygiene sessions that began in few villages now target some 72 villages in two provinces. To date, 23 trained commune council facilitators have conducted sessions with 3,400 women, girls and men. Sessions include explicit diagrams on reproductive health, ovulation cycle and the importance of menstrual health and hygiene. These seemingly modest informational sessions singlehandedly have broken down the long-held beliefs, stigmas and taboos on menstruation among women and girls in these communities. Moreover, local government agencies have been the driving force to expand the menstrual hygiene talks to more districts and provinces. Men account for just under 10% of participants- a growing and positive trend. With men’s participation it becomes a shared conversation between women and men for household sanitation.


The discussion space provided to women, girls and men has seen a ripple affect with increased purchase of hygienic sanitation facilities in target communities. More needs to be done to understand how these discussions on menstrual health and hygiene can be better integrated into sanitation programming.  Still missing are the voices of women with disabilities and other marginalised groups. However, the support from local authorities and communities is promising; creating a space for all- so no one is left behind- period!


Pictured: The National Consultant Trainers conducting follow-ups on MHH training courses conducted by Rolear Baear CCWC and Rolear Baear Female District Council and DORD in Prey Khmer and Otanes villages, Rolear Baear commune for 85 women and girls in March 2020. The government budget was used to cover the training courses. (Thrive Networks)

[1] Dutta, D., Badloe, C., Lee, H., & House, S. (2016). Supporting the Rights of Girls and Women Through Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in the East Asia and Pacific Region: Realities, progress and opportunities. Bangkok, Thailand: UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (EAPRO).


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