Menstrual cycles are related to reproductive health as well as other areas of women’s health. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is an essential component of hygiene for women and adolescent girls. Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is generally defined as:
‘Women and young girls using a clean menstrual management products to absorb or collect blood that can be managed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation blood flow, using soap and water for washing the body whenever required, and having access to facilities such as toilet, to dispose of used menstrual materials’.
Young adolescent girls due to the lack of knowledge tend to struggle with menstrual hygiene management and suffer from anxiety, depression, fear and shame during their periods. On top of that, pre-existing taboos and cultural limitations during menstruation implies that managing menstruation is a bigger challenge for underprivileged women and girls. Moreover, there is limited access to the products used to serve the purpose and safe menstrual hygiene materials during natural or unnatural disasters, such as war. In emergencies, the normal lifestyles of affected people change and they are faced with additional stress that could worsen the matters related to their physical and psychological well-being.
Availability and easy access of fundamental human requirements such as shelter, clean water, food and medicines is prioritized; however other needs such as safe menstrual hygiene management that can have major psychosocial impact if unmet are often ignored. Hygienic menstrual practices include the use of sanitary pads or other available products during the days of menstrual flow. Unfortunately, most women and young girls lack access to these essential products that are essential to maintain their menstrual health either because they cannot afford them or they are not available, especially in remote countries.
On any given day, over 300 million women are menstruating around the world. In total, an estimated 500 million women have no access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM). A study suggested that between 31 and 56% of schoolgirls in parts of Africa use toilet tissue or cloth for menstruation. Other studies have shown that the percentage of young girls who are forced to be absent from school due to menstrual health issues range from 50-75%.
What can we do about it?
- Ensure the availability of sanitary products and clothing
Studies have concluded that women of menstruating age who are more likely to use clothes, tissues, rags or damaged reusable pads in place of sanitary pads most likely experience Urinary Tract Infections and reproductive tract infections. In addition, feminine hygiene products are a multibillion-dollar industry and are being ruled by giants in the corporate industry, which, if properly explored, can generate income for many and significantly lead to an enhanced economic growth.
- Improve the menstrual hygiene management facilities
Adequately built infrastructure for adequate menstrual hygiene management is a component that holds great value but is generally neglected by many. Improving menstrual hygiene management facilities will help eradicate the issue to some extent.
- Access to medical aid for reproductive health issues
A lot of women require basic medical aid or medicine to cater to various issues that arise during menstruation. While menstruation can be painful for many, it can cause other related health issues for others, such as migraines, gastrointestinal issues, water-retention, fatigue, cramps, etc. To cater to such issues, medical aid is often needed in an affordable and accessible manner.
- Workshops on menstrual health awareness
Awareness and knowledge on the issue at hand is the key to target the hurdles along the way. Schools and colleges need to take it upon them to ensure that no one goes uninformed when it comes to reproductive health education. It is important to educate young girls about menstrual health management and their rights related to their reproductive health.
How are we contributing towards the cause of Menstrual Hygiene Management?
Building hygiene management facilities
With the support of our kind and compassionate donors, we have been installing clean water pumps and building toilet facilities for women to feel safe and cared for when it comes to managing their periods. The facilities are specially built for remote areas around Bangladesh where people are generally not that knowledgeable to be able to use such facilities. Schools that have adequate facilities and incorporate regular awareness campaigns on menstrual education into the curriculum for both girls and boys as this can reduce stigma and contribute to better education and health outcomes in a longer run.
Providing adequate Awareness & Social support
In low-income countries, the majority of the schools lack adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services required to enable girls and female teachers to manage menstruation. Many studies suggest that inadequate sanitary facilities affect the attendance of school-going girls, causing them to miss classes during their menstruation or even drop out. When girls and women have access to affordable sanitary products to manage their menstruation, they decrease their risk of infections. This can lead to cascading effects on overall reproductive health of young women, including reducing the statistics of teen pregnancy, maternal outcomes, and fertility issues. Poor menstrual hygiene, however, can pose serious health risks, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections which can result in future infertility and complications for mothers during childbirth. Neglecting to wash hands after changing menstrual products can spread infections which can spread from one person to another. We are conducting awareness campaigns on a monthly basis and providing handouts for further elaboration of facts related to menstrual health issues.
Availability and easy access of sanitary products
Improving menstrual hygiene facilities and providing easy access to affordable menstrual materials can help with the girls’ and women’s access to education, providing more opportunities for jobs, and entrepreneurship, thus adding female contribution to the overall economy of a state. Disposable sanitary products contribute to greater amounts of global waste. Ensuring women and young girls have access to sustainable and affordable products, and improving the management and the disposal of these menstrual products, can make a big difference to the environment. Our Jute Pad Project is aimed to provide sustainable sanitary alternatives which are environmental-friendly and affordable at the same time.
Conducting distribution on monthly basis
It is only by ensuring the availability of affordable sanitary products and essential clothing that we can avoid reproductive health issues. We have been distributing menstrual health management products in remote areas in Bangladesh and Africa alongside our awareness campaigns. The products are given for free to women and adolescent girls and we ensure that they are aware of their usage and disposal management. Moreover, we have an on-going cause that allows a donor to sponsor a woman for a lifetime provision of sanitary products and they can even track the progress of their donation via a personalized dashboard on our website.
To conclude it all, whilst menstrual health management activities are considered as important priorities for women and young girls, they are often neglected among poverty-stricken areas of the world. Ensuring access to hygienic management facilities, an essential amount of water available for personal use, hygienic kits containing the essential medicine, affordable sanitary pads, and ensuring women’s dignity and safety in using toilets and wash areas are core rights of every.