Together, let’s strive for a #PeriodsFriendlyWorld and ensure that every woman and girl can manage her periods safely, hygienically, and with dignity

Nilambar Rath

Menstruation, a natural biological process that half the global population experiences, continues to be shrouded in stigma, misconceptions, and challenges. Despite being a fundamental aspect of women’s reproductive health, menstruation often becomes a barrier to the full realization of women’s potential, especially in low-income communities worldwide.

Across different cultures and societies, menstruation is laden with social taboos and stigma. Many girls and women face discrimination, shame, and exclusion during their menstrual cycle due to cultural beliefs that consider menstruation impure or as a subject not to be openly discussed. These beliefs often restrict women’s freedom, participation in daily activities, and access to menstrual health resources.

The societal limitations imposed by menstruation significantly impact women’s potential. In many communities, girls miss school during their periods due to lack of sanitary products, private facilities, or simply because menstruation is considered a reason to exclude them from educational settings. This absence leads to gaps in education, reducing opportunities for women to achieve their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the society.

Access to adequate menstrual health and hygiene practices is a significant challenge, particularly in low-income countries. Limited resources, lack of education, and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities contribute to poor menstrual hygiene management. Without proper facilities or affordable sanitary products, women resort to unsafe practices, risking their health and well-being.

Fortunately, advancements in menstrual products are revolutionizing menstrual hygiene management. From reusable menstrual cups and cloth pads to biodegradable sanitary pads and period underwear, there are numerous sustainable and cost-effective options available today. These products not only promote better menstrual health but also empower women by providing them with choices that suit their needs and preferences.

Creating large-scale societal awareness about menstrual health and hygiene is crucial to dismantling the taboos and stigmas associated with menstruation. Media plays a pivotal role in shaping perceptions, influencing attitudes, and disseminating accurate information about menstruation. By portraying menstruation as a natural and normal part of life, media can help normalize conversations around periods and promote positive menstrual practices.

Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHDay) observed globally on 28 May, serves as a catalyst for change, sparking conversations, and mobilizing action towards a periods-friendly-world. This annual event raises awareness about menstrual health and hygiene, ignites media engagement, and brings together diverse stakeholders to collaborate on solutions.

Menstrual Hygiene Day was initiated by WASH United, a German non-profit organization, in 2013. Serving as the global coordinator and international secretariat for MH Day, WASH United has been playing an important role in popularizing the observance of this significant day worldwide.

MHDay continues to amplify the message that periods should not be a barrier but a normal fact of life. Through advocacy campaigns, educational initiatives, and community outreach programs, MHDay aims to break down barriers, empower women, and drive progress towards achieving menstrual equity by 2030.

Menstrual health and hygiene are integral to women’s well-being, dignity, and empowerment. Addressing the challenges and limitations associated with menstruation requires collective efforts from governments, organizations, communities, and individuals.

By promoting awareness, investing in infrastructure, supporting innovative solutions, and fostering an inclusive dialogue, we can create a world where menstruation is recognized, respected, and celebrated as a natural part of life. This holistic approach not only empowers women and girls to manage their periods safely and hygienically but also contributes to their overall health, dignity, and empowerment, paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Achieving equity in menstrual health is closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2030, particularly Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and Goal 5, which focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

Addressing menstrual health challenges is essential for realizing these broader goals, as menstrual health directly impacts women’s health, education, and overall well-being. By prioritizing menstrual health and hygiene, investing in accessible and affordable menstrual products, improving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, and promoting comprehensive menstrual education, we can make significant strides towards achieving equity in menstrual health.

(The author is a senior journalist and communication specialist. Views are personal. This article is prepared with AI support.)