Tackling menstrual waste management in West and Central Africa

Date: 7th March 2017

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The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in Senegal recently hosted a technical workshop to tackle the issue of menstrual waste management at both household and health facility level, to highlight examples of positive action and propose recommendations.  The lack of adequate sanitation and waste systems, alongside the increasing use of disposable sanitary products, presents a considerable challenge for sustainable waste management across Africa.

Credit: Javier Acebal

Around 50 experts from a range of ministries and disciplines attended the meeting, alongside staff from the WSSCC/UN Women Joint Programme, which is working with governments to improve sanitation and hygiene outcomes for women in Cameroon, Niger and Senegal.

An important challenge is weak enforcement of waste management laws and sanctions in West and Central Africa. Waste disposal facilities in places frequented by women and girls, such as schools, transport hubs and markets are extremely limited. In addition, waste management efforts have typically focused on urban areas neglecting the growing need in rural areas for sustainable systems for waste collection, management and elimination.

But there are positive signs of progress: Senegal’s National Waste Management Programme has adopted an inclusive approach by devolving waste management to the local government. The programme has introduced awareness-raising initiatives such as National Recycling Day and an alert system in the region of Dakar to monitor waste management at the community level. Schemes for community-wide collection and recycling of waste have been successfully piloted in several towns and cities in Senegal.

In Cameroon, the recruitment of ‘hygiene police’ has helped to enforce sanctions on individuals who commit offences related to waste management.

Several practical examples of waste management initiatives in Kenya were presented at the event, for example:

  • the use of WHO-recommended guidelines for health care waste management to implement a colour coding system for hospital waste and classification of bins for waste segregation
  • new technologies for waste incineration and eco-friendly waste disposal
  • the generation of biogas from human and animal waste to produce electricity

Composting different types of waste in India was highlighted, with five different technological options promoted including the process of vermicomposting, using various species of worms.

The lifespan of waste in nature. Courtesy IDX


Raise awareness of the negative consequences of poor waste management on health and the environment.

Develop waste management systems at the local level and facilitate access to water, sanitation and waste disposal for women and girls, especially in rural areas.

Involve women in the design of sanitation and waste management structures to ensure menstrual waste-related needs for disposal, collection and treatment are taken into account.

Support private sector development of menstrual waste management products that are environmentally friendly and accessible for women and girls.

The Joint Programme on Gender, Hygiene and Sanitation is designed and implemented by WSSCC and the United Nations entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). The programme supports governments in the formulation of evidence based and inclusive policies that address the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights to water and sanitation. It has been piloted in three countries: Cameroon, Niger and Senegal from 2014 – 2017, and works with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).


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