World Menstrual Hygiene Day

  • Date: 28/05/2019
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

World Menstrual Hygiene Day takes place on 28 May every year. It’s a chance to highlight the importance of menstrual care for women and girls, and raise awareness about the issues faced by those who don’t have access to sanitary products.

ActionAid is supporting innovation around the world to improve menstrual hygiene for women and girls, including in Ireland.

“Where there is no Engineer – Designing for Community Resilience” is a design initiative coordinated jointly by the Development Technology Research Group in TU Dublin and Engineers Without Borders Ireland, funded by Irish Aid and the EU DEAR Build Solid Ground Campaign.

In 2018 the winning project was the “TIDE” menstrual toolkit, designed for displaced women. It includes four sanitary pads, a washing device, underwear, and info-graphic instructions, to avoid language barriers. It is designed to provide a reusable and universal solution for refugee women and women and girls, as well as those living in poverty.

The winners will travel to Nepal to work with a community of women in rural Chitwan. The women are already part of ActionAid’s Women’s Rights Programme, funded by Irish Aid. ActionAid is supporting the TIDE team members to meet the women and help roll out the product in a real-life situation for the first time.

Facts about menstrual hygiene around the world

  • It’s estimated that one in 10 girls in Africa will miss school when they have their periods, according to UNESCO. When girls miss several days of school a month, they are more likely to drop out altogether. This puts them at greater risk of early child marriage.
  • According to UNICEF, globally, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services. And in Least Developed Countries only 27 per cent of the population has a handwashing facility with water and soap at home.
  • About half of the schools in low-income countries lack adequate[vi] drinking water, sanitation and hygiene crucial for girls and female teachers to manage their period.
  • Following a humanitarian crisis, women and girls need sanitary towels, wipes and soap.

About Menstrual Hygiene in Nepal

  • In parts of western Nepal, some women and girls are banished from their homes to live in huts or animal sheds during their periods. This practice, called chhaupadi, has been illegal in Nepal since 2005. But deeply-held views mean that chhaupadi continues in some communities. 15 girls and women died in these huts in the last 13 years. This year 5 women and children lost their live in the same sheds.
  • Many communities in rural and urban areas view menstruating women as impure. Menstrual hygiene practices are affected by cultural norms, parental influence, personal preferences, economic status, and socioeconomic pressures. Menstrual beliefs, knowledge, and practices are all interrelated to menstrual hygiene management. These norms are the barriers in the path of good menstrual hygiene practices. Many women experiencing restrictions on cooking, work activities, sexual intercourse, bathing, worshipping, and eating certain foods. These restrictions are due to the overall perception of the people regarding menstruation as they consider it dirty and polluting.
  • In some parts of the country, there are restrictions on bathing. Washing and drying thought to be done secretly or in a hidden corner so that it cannot be seen by others. It was also believed that menstrual fluids may be misused for black magic, so women should wash only at night when others were asleep. Menstrual flow was seen as dirty, polluting, and shameful. And so women hide menstrual cloths for fear of being cursed. This taboo and myth puts women and girls in many health hazards.

Photo Caption: 15-year-old Ishu outside a period hut in Nepal.  Photo by: Poulomi Basu/ActionAid

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