Published on: 25/10/2016
The lack of safe and clean toilet facilities is one of the reasons many girls in developing countries drop out of school. But also taboos around menstruation have severe impact on the lives of many girls and women. Not being able to have open conversations about menstruation can lead to unhygienic practices that cause infection and other diseases.
Medical students at the Calicut Medical College in India decided it was time to break the silence on menstrual hygiene. Members of the literary club of this college launched a menstruation-themed poetry and haiku competition.
With this project the students hope to create awareness and break taboos on menstruation. Opening up the conversation on menstruation makes it possible to improve menstrual hygiene on a more practical level. Such as providing sanitary dispensers in the girls' bathroom in college. But it also prevents the spread of incorrect information which can lead to unhygienic practices.
These medical students are the future nurses and doctors of India. So if they are not able to talk about it, who will? It would be a step in the right direction if they can educate their patients about menstrual hygiene behaviour.
These students are not the only ones who opened up the conversation on menstrual hygiene. Girls and young women in Indian slums discuss issues around menstruation during the radio show 'Sunolo Sakhi' – literally meaning 'Sisters, let's listen.'
This radio show was first broadcast in February 2016 on a community radio station in Bhubaneswar. With the help of an Adolescent Hygiene Expert, girls and women are encouraged to share their experiences and dispel the many myths around menstruation.
The lack of good MHM is not limited to India. All over the world women are facing corresponding struggles. Today - 25 October 2016 - the 5th Virtual Conference on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Schools (WinS) takes place. The conference is organised by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and UNICEF.
Translating girls' expressed needs into actionable programming or strategic shifts in education and WASH programmes and policies.
This year's conference focuses on the many ways that girls' voices are being captured and channelled into action on MHM in schools and in their lives more broadly; and on political commitments.
The evidence base on the MHM barriers girls face in schools in low-income contexts is building, with increasing advocacy, programming and research aimed at understanding the most effective interventions for addressing the WASH-related challenges facing menstruating girls and female teachers in schools.
The conference showcases initiatives that are translating girls' expressed needs into actionable programming or strategic shifts in education and WASH programmes and policies, including indicators to capture measurable change, and the engagement of teachers and government actors. Presentations come from various countries, including Nepal, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan and Kenya. Participants can attend online and participate live with comments and questions.
IRC recognizes the importance of MHM and therefore contributes to the integration of MHM in WASH programmes. Especially IRC Uganda is very progressive in improving MHM in their country. For example by contributing to the celebration of the annual MHM day to raise awareness about this pressing matter. IRC Uganda is not alone. The MHM coalition in Uganda supports mainstream media promotion of MHM.