Menstrual Hygiene Management

Equality, human rights and non-discrimination are central to ensuring access to safe water supply, adequate sanitation and good hygiene for all people, everywhere. Women and girls need privacy and dignity especially when they are menstruating; the elderly or disabled need adapted services.

Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is a major health issue affecting women and girls of reproductive age worldwide. Fifty-two per cent of the female population is of reproductive age at any given time1. The transition into reproductive age for some girls is often met with fear and anxiety due to a lack of knowledge about menstruation and a lack of resources about the changes that are occurring in their bodies. School-aged girls in marginalized communities face the largest barriers to MHM, as many schools do not have the necessary facilities, supplies, knowledge, and understanding to appropriately support girls during menstruation. This negatively impacts their education and ability to stay in school. Furthermore, schools often have inadequate water and sanitation available, making menstrual hygiene almost impossible to maintain, causing stress and embarrassment for female students. Also, communities often hold local cultural beliefs or taboos related to menstruation that can threaten a girl’s physical and/or emotional well-being.

School Environment

WOOSH in partnership with other organizations facilitates construction of toilets separate for boys and girls and is working to provide MHM awareness and guidance to all school children. Toilets are to be kept hygienic, clean, and usable with at least one toilet for women and girls to manage menstruation. These facilities should have means for disposing of menstrual waste safely, water for washing, and offer privacy and security for women and girls.

Menstrual Hygiene management beyond School Environment

Current research and practice around MHM is highly concentrated in the school environment and is often addressed within individual sectors, rather than in an integrated way. WOOSH intends to build on learnings from existing MHM research and programming to develop a more multi-sectoral approach to MHM –aligning the sectors of education, livelihoods, health, WASH, and gender to advocate and intervene for healthy MHM for women and girls beyond the school environment and in all settings where women and girls live, work, learn, play, and seek services.

Our major project in Uganda

In Uganda, one of the critical factors that undermines menstrual hygiene management is the limited knowledge and support from men and boys, which appear to be informed by stigma, lack of knowledge, and social norms embedded in gender relations. This contributes to poor school performance and attendance. Efforts have been made globally to close the gender gap in education by paying attention to the specific needs of pre-and post-pubescent girls.
WOOSH is currently working hard to embark on a project to empower adolescent girls and boys with skills in making their own reusable sanitary pads as a way of improving attendance and retention of girls in school. The goal is to positively influence existing attitudes and beliefs that can contribute to gender-based violence by promoting views on menstruation as a positive and healthy part of adolescent growth and development. The trainings aim to equip girls and boys with skills to make reusable pads, and empower school-children with knowledge on menstrual hygiene and with resources about the changes that occur in their bodies during maturation.