Global menstrual health day changing lives on the islands of Papua New Guinea

The Live and Learn PNG team outdoors gathered around a colourful MHH Day poster

The Live & Learn Kavieng team celebrating MH Day on 28 May 2020 (Live & Learn PNG).


For the women and girls of Papua New Guinea, a global day highlighting the importance of menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) makes a significant difference.

Each day around 300 million people worldwide are menstruating, but in developing countries and areas, such as Papua New Guinea’s New Ireland province, doing so hygienically and with dignity can be a challenge.

MHH initiatives that join the voices and actions of non-profits – like Water for Women partners Plan International and Live & Learn PNG - government agencies, individuals, the private sector, media, and schools - like New Ireland’s Livitua Primary School - are having a positive impact, by effectively promoting the importance of safe and dignified MHH for all.

Reflecting on the school’s Menstrual Hygiene Day activities on 28 May, the headteacher of New Ireland’s Livitua Primary School said: “Most male kids and adults take it [menstruation] as a joke, but after the [MH Day] event and activities which were performed by the kids most people see how significant menstruation is in the development of the female body.”

Periods can be challenging for women and girls at the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made MHH much more difficult for many. Safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is the first line of defense against COVID-19 and is also essential during menstruation. Dignified MHH also requires reliable access to sanitary products, information about self-care and the menstrual cycle, and a respectful environment free from stigma, which allows girls, women, and gender non-binary people the freedom to participate in all aspects of life, at all times.

Live & Learn PNG is implementing a WASH in Schools project in seven New Ireland target schools that aims to educate and enable women and girls to manage their periods safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame.

Last year, Live & Learn held a series of MH Day activities in New Ireland, including a police-escorted procession of students, teachers and parents from all seven schools, through Kavieng, New Ireland’s capital, to Livitua Primary School, the hosting school.

NBC Radio New Ireland broadcast the event across the island’s communities, prompting requests from residents and schools for more information on MHH and to be part of the WASH in Schools project.

The day’s activities included speeches from Live & Learn’s Cecilia Tohiam, Department of Education representative, Ruth Watlen, and the Deputy Town Mayor; performances and presentations from students, including a string band, debates, choirs, poems, a flash mob, mime and human sculpture, all centred on the theme of menstrual health.

Live & Learn PNG staff also displayed and explained all the different types of disposal sanitary pads sold in New Ireland and examples of re-usable pads that Live & Learn PNG are supporting local women’s community groups to produce.

Under the Australian Government’s aid program, Water for Women is partnering with Plan International and Live & Learn in PNG to support local government in Kavieng District, New Ireland Province and Northern Region, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville to deliver safe, resilient, sustainable, and inclusive WASH services for 60,000 people.

Gender equality and social inclusion are central to Water for Women. Actively involving all people within communities – women, men, marginalised groups, people with disabilities - ensures more equitable and inclusive processes, which lead to more effective and sustainable outcomes in WASH. Read more about our work in PNG.

MH Day is organised by WASH United, with the involvement of more than 500 social impact organisations. Learn more about their approach.


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