Pivotal not peripheral: Ending period poverty by prioritising menstrual health and hygiene in WASH

A blue pattern featuring lots of WASH related icons and the thumbnail cover of a Learning Brief on menstrual health and hygiene

Achieving menstrual health and hygiene requires access to WASH facilities and services, as well as access to appropriate sanitary products, and relevant information about self-care and the menstrual cycle. It also requires a respectful environment that is free from stigma – and allows girls, women and gender non-binary people the freedom to participate in all aspects of life, no matter what time of the month.

 

Launching on Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021

Pivotal not peripheral: Ending period poverty by prioritising menstrual health and hygiene in WASH

 

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Towards the end of 2020, Water for Women undertook a review of menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) initiatives to collate information from partners working within a broad range of contexts, and to draw out lessons for good practice in inclusive MHH programming within the WASH sector.

This Learning Brief is the product of that learning. 

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Menstruation is a normal and natural part of the reproductive system, and yet in so many parts of the world, it is still not treated as such, and is either heavily stigmatised or ignored. On any given day, more than 300 million women and girls are menstruating.  This stigma and indifference has debilitating impacts worldwide on women, girls, and gender non-binary people, including those with disabilities, and can severely impact their health and lifetime opportunities to access to education, employment and recreation.

 

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[1]. 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.

 

To achieve SDG6.2 (access to adequate sanitation for all), we need to prioritise MHH rather than treat it as a peripheral issue.

 

Making menstruation pivotal in WASH requires a whole-of-systems approach to ending period poverty in MHH: strengthening supply chains and empowering women and girls, undoing stigma and harmful norms that perpetuate myths of menstruation as dirty and shameful, and ensuring toilets (in schools, at health care facilities, in institutions and workplaces, as well as in the home) are menstrual hygiene friendly.

 

 

This Learning Brief was a collaboration between Water for Women and our partners. Thank you to all Water for Women partners who contributed to both the MHH research project and this Learning Brief. A particular thanks to Maritsa Kacopieros for conducting the internal MHH review across the Fund, which has informed the development of this Learning Brief. This Learning Brief was authored by Joanna Mott, Gender and Social Inclusion Advisor (Water for Women), with support from Mia Cusack, Communications Advisor (Water for Women). A special thank you to Chelsea Huggett, Equity and Inclusion Advisor (Wateraid Australia), Aleisha Carroll, Manager, Inclusion Advisory Group (CBM Australia) and Kate Orr, Knowledge and Learning Manager (Water for Women) for their peer review of this Learning Brief.

 

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[1] Note from: Making the Case for Investing in Menstrual Health & Hygiene, January 2021.  Women and girls: not all women and girls menstruate, and not all people who menstruate are women. The term ‘girls and women’ is used as a shorthand term to increase readability but refers to all people who menstruate including girls, women, transgender and non-binary persons.

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