Women tackling taboos to end menstrual stigma in Vietnam

Two women sit at a table - Ms. Truong Thi Hoa is mobilizing household to build the hygiene latrine through WOBA project

Meet Truong Thi Hoa (left), president of Tan Xuan commune Women’s Union in Nghe An province, Vietnam, and an agent of change who is helping to combat harmful norms and empower women and girls to manage their menstruation safely and with dignity. Here she is mobilising a household to build a hygienic latrine through WOBA. 
(Thrive Networks / East Meets West / Vu Thi Thuy)


Meet Truong Thi Hoa, president of Tan Xuan commune Women’s Union in Nghe An province, Vietnam, and an agent of change who is helping to combat harmful norms and empower women and girls to manage their menstruation safely and with dignity.


As a member of the Thổ community, Truong Thi Hoa was taught to stay away from the altar during menstruation and felt ashamed and afraid to meet others or go to school during her period. As she grew older, this stigma persisted. “When I got married, my mother-in-law told me that I should not touch the worship items or brew green tea for my father-in-law during menstruation days,” she explained.


More than half of the community of Tan Xuan belong to ethnic minorities, like the Thổ people, which consider menstruation to be culturally taboo. This meant menstrual hygiene management (MHM) was not openly discussed, and menstruation not understood and accepted as a natural and normal part of life.


But through engagement with Water for Women’s Women-led Output-Based Aid (WOBA) project, supported by Australia, Truong Thi Hoa and other Women’s Union members are tackling taboos and gradually shifting the stigma around menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) in their communities.


After participating in MHH training with Water for Women partners from Thrive Networks / East Meets West – where, for the first time in her life, she learnt about MHM – Truong Thi Hoa began to raise awareness of the importance of MHM and share the knowledge she had gained, including on proper health care during menstruation, the use of sanitary products, and construction of hygienic latrines and clean water connections.


Truong Thi Hoa organised MHM training sessions and invited women’s union representatives to attend alongside their husbands, with the women and men encouraged to speak openly about their experiences in MHM. Although some were reluctant at first, as she later recalled, the strategy immediately began to pay off.


“I remembered that a man left the training when he saw the ‘menstrual hygiene’ title and said, “Why did you invite me for this training?” After I explained … the importance of MHM, he agreed to join… I was happy to hear that one man built a hygienic latrine for his wife and daughter’s convenience after attending my training."


Reflecting on her community engagement throughout the WOBA project, Truong Thi Hoa expressed the importance of empowering girls and women, and engaging men as allies for norms change and socially equitable development.


"I believed that inviting more men to join the training is an efficient way to support them to understand and share the healthcare burden with women and girls, “she said. "Through the Women's Union communications activities, I hope that my knowledge will be transferred to women and girls to improve their quality of life through stigma reduction, gender equality, and women empowerment."


The WOBA project was implemented by Thrive Networks / East Meets West from 2018-2022 – one of 20 Water for Women WASH projects to be delivered by civil society organisation partners during the initial phase of the Fund. At project completion, WOBA had directly benefitted more than 104,740 people living in the five provinces of Nghe An, Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa, Ha Tinh and Ben Tre, including over 52,580 women and girls and 5,000 people with disabilities. More than 18,000 marginalised and poor households were also supported to build hygienic latrines and 6,943 to install new water connections, and over 3,056 handwashing devices were distributed to kindergartens, health stations and marginalised households through the project.





To celebrate #MHDay2023, we have launched our latest publication

WASH in Schools: Insights from Water for Women


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Making menstruation a normal part of life is creating a world where no woman, girl or person is held back because they menstruate.

From poverty reduction and stronger economies to healthier populations and better educational outcomes, the benefits of investing in Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) are far-reaching.

On Menstrual Hygiene Day - 28th May - and every day, we are committed to #PeriodAction.

Together with our partners, we are working to ensure sustainable MHH solutions through water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects across the Asia Pacific region. We are transforming WASH systems to empower women, girls and gender diverse people, including those with disabilities, by shifting stigma and harmful norms, and strengthening access to menstrual hygiene-friendly sanitation services and products—so that periods can be managed safely and with dignity.


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