Tomorrow is World Menstrual Hygiene Day. Initiated by the German non-profit WASH United in 2014, the day is a global day of action with more than 830 partner organisations working together to create awareness and action toward a world without period poverty and stigma. The date of 28 May represents the menstrual cycle which has an average duration of 28 days, with an average of five days of bleeding.
For some, menstruation may be an inconvenience they don’t give much thought to. But for millions of others, this most natural of reproductive cycle functions can equate to abuse because the onset of menstruation may lead to child marriage and sexual violence as well as violations of bodily autonomy; stigma which includes banishment to menstruation huts; missed opportunities where many girls skip school because of pain, discomfort and/or the lack of personal hygiene products; and loss of dignity due to the lack of supplies in humanitarian and refugee settings where even the basics like soap and water are in short supply or unavailable. Poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education on the issue, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure undermines the educational opportunities, health and overall social status of women and girls around the world. As a result, millions of women and girls are kept from reaching their full potential.
World Menstrual Hygiene Day promotes good menstrual health and hygiene for all women and girls. More specifically, the day breaks the silence, raises awareness and changes negative social norms around menstrual health and hygiene and engages decision-makers to increase the political priority and catalyse action for menstrual health and hygiene at global, national and local levels.
Recently, countries have made sanitary supplies free or tax-free to help fight period poverty. New Zealand, France and Namibia are the latest countries to announce such initiatives after Scotland became the first country to provide period products free to anyone who needed them last year.
The theme of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day is Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health. The Menstruation Bracelet is a global symbol for menstruation which stands for the commitment to create a world, by 2030, where no woman or girl is kept from realising her full potential because she menstruates. A world where menstruation is just a normal fact of life.
Today, millions of women and girls around the world are stigmatised, excluded and discriminated against simply because they menstruate. In 2022, it’s no longer acceptable that a natural bodily function prevents women and girls from getting an education, earning an income and fully and equally participating in everyday life. On this day, we should break the taboos and end the stigma surrounding menstruation and raise awareness about the challenges regarding access to menstrual products, education about menstruation and period-friendly sanitation facilities.