Village voices improve Cambodian Women's menstrual health and hygiene

Training workshop of trainers on menstrual health and hygiene, a woman stands in front of a group

Ms. Teng You Ky conducts a training of trainers (ToT) session on MHH for seven Female Commune Focal Points in Samaky Meanchey District, Cambodia (Thrive Networks)

 

Menstruation is a taboo topic in many cultures but two women in Cambodia are spearheading a campaign to change that – and improve the health of rural women. 

 

Teng You Ky, a consultant for Water for Women partner, Thrive Networks, and Kong Saly, from Cambodia’s Department of Rural Health Care, have trained people to visit villages across Kampong Chhnang Province to help women improve their menstrual health and hygiene (MHH).

 

In just two months the team has spoken to almost 600 community members, 95 per cent female, with their efforts already paying off in improvements to health.

 

This work forms part of Thrive Networks Water for Women project, Women-Led Output Based Aid (WOBA), supported by the Australian Government.

 

Suon Sopheap, Chairwoman of the Commune Committee for Women and Children of Rolear Baear Commune, was able to recognise the impact through health centre data in her commune with a drop in recorded health issues related to poor management of menstrual health and hygiene from 30 per cent before MHH training, to just 5-10 per cent following the training. 

 

Teng You Ky and Kong Saly, involved local leaders, in the MHH training of trainers (ToT) sessions. The courses centred on key water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) messages, including safe drinking water, use of hygienic latrines, and handwashing with soap.

 

After training, they visited villages in six communes across the province building understanding and raising awareness about ways to improve MHH. Thrive Networks is including male leaders in MHH training in Cambodia to help them understand the importance of the topic and the need to support women. These leaders, in turn, have been allocating funding from their own budgets to train more women and girls in their communities about MHH.

 

Poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education, taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products, and poor sanitation infrastructure, undermines the education, health and social status of women and girls around the world.

 

The WASH sector recognises the role of safe and dignified menstrual hygiene management for the well-being and health of women, girls and vulnerable people, and their access to education, livelihoods and workforce participation.

 

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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