Menstruation is a biological process just like defecation or urination. Maintaining hygiene during menses is important for women’s well-being, mobility, and dignity.
The topic of menstruation is cloaked in secrecy and negativity; in many countries it is associated with cultural and religious taboos, and is therefore completely neglected. This is also unfortunately the case in many WASH programmes.
Breaking a taboo starts with broaching the subject. The best place to do so is in schools, where the topic can be incorporated into hygiene and sexual education. This requires sound knowledge (and in some cases also the courage of teachers) on how to use sanitary items and related issues.
Engage with WSSCC on Menstrual Hygiene Management
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has four pillars of work around Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM): Advocacy and Communications, Policy and Research, Knowledge and Skills, and Access and Use.
WSSCC has developed a framework for its work across the three interrelated dimensions of managing the menstrual cycle hygienically. The framework prioritises:
- Breaking the silence – fostering understanding that menstruation is a fact of life, and a distinct biological female attribute that women should be proud of, not ashamed by. Girls should be encouraged to talk and discuss this biological phenomenon in an informed and positive manner to prepare them emotionally and physically for the onset ofmenstruation and their monthly menstrual periods thereafter.
- Managing menstruation hygienically and safely – ensuring adequate water, cleansing and washing materials and private spaces for managing menstrual flows hygienically and privately, and with dignity, in the home and in public spaces.
- Safe reuse and disposal solutions – ensuring mechanisms for safe reuse, collection and disposal of menstrual waste in an environmentally safe manner.
Through all of its work, WSSCC aims to break the silence around Menstrual Hygiene Management. We had exciting case studies and exhibitions during our Global Forum and our Celebrating Womanhood: Menstrual Hygiene Management event on 8th March 2013, and we are bringing the topic to attention in sessions during upcoming events and in our publications. During 2013, there are several ways to engage with WSSCC’s work in this area:
Advocacy and Communication
For more on how we collaborate and engage with our partners, join us at:
- Women Deliver conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28-30 May 2013
- Making Menstruation Matter, New York City, USA, 6-8 June 2013
- 36th WEDC International Conference on ‘Delivering Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in an Uncertain Environment’, Nairobi, Kenya, 1-5 July 2013
- World Water Week conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 1-6 September 2013
- IWA Congress, Nairobi, Kenya, 14-17 October 2013
- SACOSAN V meeting, Kathmandu, Nepal, 21-24 October 2013
Tweet at these events and beyond using #MHM to keep the momentum going. Raise the issue at other events that you may attend.
Policy and research
Support the post-2015 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) targets and indicators for menstrual hygiene management facilities and look for research opportunities such as those at www.shareresearch.org.
Knowledge and Skills
Join the discussion and resource development work on building capacity to raise information and awareness in schools, health clinics, the workplace and home. Disseminate widely open source materials on MHM to potential areas of interest. A good place to start is at our Community of Practice at www.wsscc.org/cop.
Access and Use
Include MHM in your spaces and objectives – with simple practical initiatives designed by asking women and girls what they want and need. Contact WSSCC and partners for information, materials and resource persons. Engage with MHM work through the Global Sanitation Fund, which operates in 10 countries -- a growing number of the GSF
Please find as follows the declaration of Archana Patkar, WSSCC Programme manager, Networking & Knowledge Management, on 8th March 2013 during the Celebrating Womanhood: Menstrual Hygiene Management event:
WSSCC’s Menstrual Hygiene Management Ring
Imagery is important in conveying ideas, and WSSCC has developed a ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management Ring’ illustration to support and reinforce all of its work on menstrual hygiene. The ring appears in its reports, is used as a bracelet, and in other formats. Its circles and colours represent the menstruation cycle and the ring helps to emphasise that menstruation is something to be proud of each month and something to be talked about.
The imagery was designed by WSSCC with the strong involvement of Indian designer Lakshmi Murthy who is the founder of Vikalpdesign, a design and communications consultancy based in Udaipur, India. Click here for more information on Lakshmi and the approach to her work on menstruation.