Menstrual Hygiene Day
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD, MH Day in short) is an annual awareness day on May 28 to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM). It was initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2014 and aims to benefit women and girls worldwide. The 28th was selected to acknowledge that 28 days is the average length of the menstrual cycle.
|Menstrual Hygiene Day|
|Also called||MHD or MH Day|
|Observed by||people worldwide|
|Significance||To break taboos surrounding menstruation, raise awareness of the importance of good menstrual hygiene management worldwide.|
|First time||May 28, 2014|
|Related to||Global Handwashing Day|
In low-income countries, girls’ choices of menstrual hygiene materials are often limited by the costs, availability and social norms. Adequate sanitation facilities and access to feminine hygiene products are one part of the solution. Creating a culture that welcomes discussion and makes adequate education for girls is of equal importance. Research has found that not having access to menstrual hygiene management products can keep girls home from school during their period each month.
Menstrual Hygiene Day creates an occasion for publicizing information in the media, including social media. Public information campaigns can help to engage decision-makers in policy dialogue. The day offers an opportunity to actively advocate for the integration of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) into global, national and local policies and programmes.
An accepted definition of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is:
- "Women and adolescent girls use a clean material to absorb or collect menstrual blood, and this material can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of menstruation.
- MHM also includes using soap and water for washing the body as required; and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials."
The "value chain" related to menstrual hygiene management includes four aspects: awareness, access, use as well as waste management.
The term “menstrual health” is broader than menstrual hygiene. It encompasses both the menstrual hygiene management practices and the broader systemic factors that link menstruation with health, well-being, gender, education, equity, empowerment, and human rights (in particular the human right to water and sanitation).
Menstrual hygiene day is meant to serve as a platform to bring together individuals, organisations, social businesses and the media to create a united and strong voice for women and girls around the world, helping to break the silence about menstrual hygiene management.
- To address the challenges and hardships many women and girls face during their menstruation.
- To highlight the positive and innovative solutions being taken to address these challenges.
- To catalyse a growing, global movement that recognizes and supports girl’s and women’s rights and build partnerships among those partners on national and local level.
- To engage in policy dialogue and actively advocate for the integration of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) into global, national and local policies and programmes.
- To create an occasion for media work, including social media.
There are currently 410 official partners. These include international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Plan International, SNV, Plan, Water for People, Women in Europe for a Common Future. Further partners are many national and regional NGOs as well as suppliers of menstrual hygiene products, washable menstrual pads and menstrual cups.
For partners working in developing countries, the day is not only an opportunity to raise awareness, but also to strengthen government accountability related to MHM issues. For example, in 2015 the Ministry of Health in Kenya launched a national MHM strategy. Kenya, jointly with UNICEF, held a virtual conference on Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools that same year.
In May 2018, the Accra Metropolitan District Assembly in Ghana held Menstrual Health programs in urban poor schools. Over 700 girls attended each program and each received a complimentary packet of sanitary pads.
In 2017 there were about 350 events in 54 countries. In India alone there were 67 events. These events included educational events in schools, community rallies, concerts to raise awareness, advocacy workshops with governments, product donations.
On and around 28 May 2015, organisations and individuals from all over the world came together to recognise the second Menstrual Hygiene Day under the theme "Let‘s end the hesitation around menstruation". In total, 127 events in 33 countries took place, using the day as an opportunity to engage men and boys as well, link to other important women’s and girls’ issues, advance policy advocacy, reach the marginalised, and challenge societal norms that claim that menstrual periods are shameful or dirty.
Menstrual hygiene management can be particularly challenging for girls and women in developing countries, where clean water and toilet facilities are often inadequate. In addition, traditional cultures make it difficult to discuss menstruation openly. This limits women’s and adolescent girls’ access to relevant and important information about the normal functions of their own body. This directly affects their health, education and dignity. Access to information can be considered a human right.
In a 2014 study conducted in India, the researchers found that as many as 42% of women who participated in the study did not know about sanitary pads or from where in their anatomy menstruation originated. "Most of them were scared or worried on first menstruation." Worldwide, in 2018, one in three women does not have access to a working toilet at all. Menstrual hygiene management issues have been ignored by professionals in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, and in the health and education sectors, too.
Poor MHM may affect the reproductive tract but the specific infections, the strength of effect, and the route of transmission, remain unclear. In India, a majority of girls are at risk for reproductive tract infections (RTI) because of poor MHM and RTI can lead to various disabilities if not treated early on. Reproductive tract infections are the cause of 30–50% of prenatal infection. Due to prejudices surrounding the issue, some women in India do not eat or take showers during their menstruation.
Sanitation facilities at schoolsEdit
In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, girls can miss up to 5 days of school a month or drop out entirely due to insufficient access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and menstrual hygiene products. Improving access to WASH facilities can actually increase girls' attendance at school. A program for school sanitation in Bangladesh increased girls' enrollment at school by 11%.
Menstrual waste is largely ignored in schools in developing countries, despite it being a significant problem. Girls' access to water and sanitation at school is only available at 47% and 46% of all schools globally. Often, school toilets for girls (if they even exist) are missing bins for menstrual waste collection with the result that pads may be spread all around the school compound area. This pollutes the environment and also causes embarrassment for the school girls.
Access to materialsEdit
A lack of affordable hygiene products means inadequate, unhygienic alternatives are used, which can present a serious health risk. Menstrual cups offer a long-term solution compared to some other feminine hygiene products because they do not need to be replaced monthly. The quality of the material also makes them a reliable and healthy menstrual hygiene solution, as long as there is access to clean water for washing them.
Girls and women in the workplace often miss work because they don't have access to sanitary materials and places of employment in some countries don't provide resources for women or even have "proper toilets." Women in Bangladesh who work in factories have reported that due to the cost of sanitary products for menstruation which they could not afford, they have resorted to using "factory-floor rags in place of pads and tampons, leading to dangerous infections and missed work."
Menstruation can be a barrier to education for many girls, as a lack of effective sanitary products restricts girls' involvement in educational and social activities. Often they do not attend school due to fear of leaking, shame or embarrassment, period pain or inadequate sanitation facilities that do not allow them to wash or change in privacy. This applies mainly to schoolgirls from low-income families, since disposable hygiene products are a monthly expense that many females simply cannot afford.
Adequate sanitation facilities and access to menstrual hygiene products are just one part of the solution to menstrual taboos that impede women's progress in many developing countries. Knowledge is critical for girls to feel comfortable with menstruation and to gain a positive awareness of their bodies.
U.S. and UKEdit
Even many low-income and/or homeless girls and women in the inner cities of the United States cannot afford sanitary supplies. Food Banks in New York report that feminine hygiene products are in high demand. Homeless women in the United States face the challenge of not being able to shower or use the communal toilet in homeless shelters as often as they need to in cases where there are restrictions on toilet usage. In New York, proposals to help lower income women access menstrual sanitary supplies includes proposals to remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products and "distributing free tampons in public schools." Sales tax are levied on menstrual supplies in 36 states. On May 1, 2018 The National Diaper Bank Network, which provides millions of diapers to poor and low income parents and advocates for policy change around basic needs, launched the Alliance for Period Supplies and began distributing free period products through allied organizations across the U.S. Homeless women in other industrialized countries, such as the United Kingdom, face problems affording tampons and sanitary napkins.
Cultural, religious and traditional beliefs — particularly in developing countries — can lead to restrictions that women or girls face during their period. In some societies, women do not wash their bodies, shower or bathe during menstruation. They may not be allowed to use water sources during menstruation. Even if they have access to toilets, they might not use them because of the fear of staining the toilet bowls (in the case of dry toilets or flush toilets where the flush is not powerful). This impairs the use of menstrual cups compared to pads as the cups are normally emptied into toilets.
Expanding the discussion to include consideration of waste management is part of the attempt to "normalize" conversations about menstruation.
In 2012, several important groups involved in public health began to break the silence on MHM and turn their attention to the issue globally, including grassroots organizers, social entrepreneurs and United Nations agencies.
In May 2013, WASH United used a 28-day social media campaign, for example on Twitter, called "May #MENSTRAVAGANZA" to generate awareness about menstruation and MHM as important considerations within water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) development initiatives. Those involved with the social media campaign, including WASH Advocates, Girls' Globe and Ruby Cup, were encouraged by the positive feedback for the "May #MENSTRAVAGANZA" and they decided to create a global awareness day for menstruation.
On 28 May 2014, many people around the world celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day for the first time with rallies, exhibitions, movie screenings, workshops and speeches. There were 145 partners involved with the first MHD.
For 2015, a hashtag campaign on social media lent a light-hearted look at challenging societal norms with the tag #IfMenHadPeriods. The campaign by WaterAid, released in time for Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Day, created videos "spoof ads" where men are proud of having their periods and used "Manpons" instead of tampons. The campaign helped "raise awareness about women who don't have access to 'safe water, hygiene and sanitation,' when their monthly visitor comes along." Another aspect of the campaign is that it helped bring men into the conversation so that they could "help tackle the stigma in largely patriarchal societies and encourage women and girls to embrace their cycle with pride instead of shame." In Uganda, 2015 celebrations kicked off with a march to Parliament where a charter on MHM was signed and then the march continued to the National theatre for presentations by primary and secondary schools.
Choice of dateEdit
May 28 has symbolic meaning. May is the 5th month of the year and women menstruate an average of 5 days every month. Also, the menstrual cycle averages 28 days.
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