The Impact of Menstruation on School Activities and Absenteeism

By Silvia Devina, WASH & Early Childhood Development Advisor, Plan International Indonesia


Plan International Indonesia (PII) has recently conducted a study on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in collaboration with the SMERU Research Institute (SMERU).

The study was conducted in elementary and junior high school students in three provinces (DKI Jakarta, Nusa Tenggara Barat, and Nusa Tenggara Timur – the latter two being the location of Plan International’s Water for Women project).

Findings from the study, indicated that:

  • 33% of schools do not have separate toilets for girls and boys
  • 39% of school girls have been bullied by their friends about menstruation.
  • 63% of parents never explained menstruation to their daughters before their first menstruation.
  • 45% of parents said that there was no need to explain menstruation to their sons because it is inappropriate, they are still small, and they will find out themselves when they are adults.

Due to schools not meeting the sanitation and MHM needs of girls’ during menstruation, 55% of girls in junior high school and 25% of girls in elementary school reported that the biggest impact of having their period was losing concentration in class. Other impacts were reported to be girls leaving school early for the day (19% in junior high school and 5% in elementary school) and being absent from school entirely (3% in junior high school and 7% in elementary high school).

Four people on stage in a panel discussion

Top: Silvia Devina sharing PII’s MHM interventions at the Development Forum, Jakarta.


Left: SMERU, MoEC and PII discussing MHM at the Development Forum, Jakarta.

Results of the study were disseminated by SMERU at the Development Forum held in Jakarta in October 2018. Plan International Indonesia’s WASH and ECD Advisor, Silvia Devina, also presented at the forum on the implementation of MHM by PII, while the Director of Primary School Development from the Ministry of Education & Culture (MoEC), presented school sanitation roadmaps.

The PII-SMERU study also assessed the effectiveness of PII’s MHM interventions which commenced in 2015 in Nusa Tenggara Timur province as part of the DFAT funded Civil Society WASH Fund Project, supported by Plan International Australia. The study found that the program had significant, albeit different, impacts in each province including:

  • In Nusa Tenggara Timur it created openness and breaking of the taboo relating to MHM, improved hygiene practices, and increased school participation in building MHM facilities.
  • In Nusa Tenggara Barat it triggered school participation in building MHM facilities.
  • At National level in Jakarta it created openness and breaking of taboo.

The findings of this study are now contributing to the evidence base shaping the response to MHM in schools within PII’s Water for Women project (July 2018 – December 2022). This project includes PII working together with the Indonesian Government (including MoEC) and UNICEF to mainstream MHM into the National school curriculum, and interventions seeking to help young girls feel prepared and confident about MHM before they reach the age of their first menstruation.   

Speaker addresses an audience about Menstrual Health Management (MHM)

Silvia Devina sharing PII’s MHM interventions at the Development Forum, Jakarta.

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