Recognizing and Taking Care of Menstrual Health at Various Life Stages

menstrual health

Education

Half of schools in low-income countries lack adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services, which are essential for girls and teachers to cope with menstruation (UNICEF 2015). Many studies claim that inadequate sanitation hinders girls’ school experience, causing them to miss school or even drop out of school during menstruation. Schools with female-friendly facilities and incorporating information about menstruation into the curriculum for both girls and boys can reduce stigma and contribute to better education and health outcomes.

• A meta-analysis on the menstrual health status of adolescent girls in India found that one in four girls did not attend school during menstruation due to a lack of adequate toilets (Van Eijk et al. 2016).

• In South Sudan, 57 percent of adolescent girls surveyed said they stayed at home during menstruation due to a lack of dedicated changing rooms at school (Tamiru et al. 2015).

• A study in Kenya found that 95 percent of menstruating girls reported missing one to three days of school, 70 percent reported that their grades were negatively affected, and over 50 percent missed school due to menstrual health. (Mucherah and Thomas, 2017). .

Pregnancy and Menstruation

Pregnancy and Menstruation are critical to the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls. More than 300 million women around the world menstruate every day. In total, an estimated 500 million people lack access to menstrual products and appropriate menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities. To effectively manage menstruation, girls and women need water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities; affordable and appropriate menstrual hygiene products; information on best practices; and access to menstruation without shame or stigma. You need access to a supportive environment that you can control.

According to the 2012 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program, menstrual hygiene management is defined as:

“Women and adolescent girls will use clean menstrual management materials to receive or collect menstrual blood. This may be changed as often as necessary in privacy.” If desired. Access to safe and convenient facilities for washing with soap and water and disposing of used menstrual care products. They understand the basic facts about the menstrual cycle and how to manage it gracefully without discomfort or fear.

Economic

Improving menstrual hygiene and providing access to affordable menstrual products can help increase girls’ and women’s access to education and increase opportunities for jobs, advancement, and entrepreneurship. It also enables women to contribute to the overall economy rather than maintaining the household. Additionally, sanitary products are a multi-billion dollar industry that, if leveraged correctly, can generate income for many people and significantly boost economic growth.

• Girls who drop out of school have limited employment opportunities and often marry and have children early, further limiting their ability to earn an income.

• Women whose workplaces lack female-friendly sanitation facilities lose wages for days missed during menstruation, are seen as unreliable workers, and are less likely to be promoted.

• Due to financial constraints and limited markets, many girls and women do not have access to appropriate menstrual products.

Environment

Single-use hygiene products contribute to a large amount of waste on the planet. Giving women and girls access to sustainable, high-quality products and improving waste management of menstrual products can make a big difference to the environment.

• Every year, the average woman throws away around 150 kilograms of non-biodegradable waste. In India alone, around 121 million women and girls use an average of 8 disposable and non-compostable sanitary napkins per month, resulting in 1.021 billion sanitary napkin waste every month, 12.3 billion sanitary napkin waste, and 1,13,000 tons of menstrual waste generated annually.

Health

When girls and women have access to safe and affordable hygiene products to manage their periods, they reduce the risk of infection. This can have cascading effects on overall sexual and reproductive health, including teenage pregnancy, maternal outcomes, and reduced fertility. However, poor menstrual hygiene can pose serious health risks, including genital and urinary tract infections. This can lead to infertility and childbirth complications in the future. Not washing your hands after changing menstrual products can spread infections such as hepatitis B and yeast infections.

Studies have shown that distributing sanitary napkins to girls significantly reduces sexually transmitted infections and bacterial vaginosis.

Gender equality

Promoting menstrual health and hygiene is an important means of protecting women’s dignity, privacy, physical integrity, and therefore self-efficacy. MHH recognition helps create an enabling environment for non-discrimination and gender equality, where women’s voices are heard, girls can decide their future, and women have the opportunity to become leaders and managers.

• Discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, and prejudices regarding menstruation can lead girls to engage in risky behaviors.

• A study in Egypt found that many female students reported not bathing during menstruation because touching water during the menstrual cycle is considered a social taboo.

• A study in Nepal found that many girls were forced to stay in huts or sleep in the fields during their period, even though the government had made the practice illegal.

Country Examples

Improving women’s ability to access adequate menstrual health and hygiene is central to the World Bank Group’s development outcomes. MHM cuts across many development sectors, and as the World Bank’s recent work demonstrates, the Bank is tackling the issue through collaboration and a holistic approach.

• In Bangladesh, rural water, sanitation, and hygiene projects for human capital development provide access to microfinance loans and sanitation subsidies for women to invest in household washing facilities. Additionally, the project will facilitate behavior change sessions and training on menstrual hygiene and the importance of safely managed toilet facilities. At the community level, the project will build MHH-friendly facilities in public spaces and promote women’s representation and leadership on water management boards. 150 women entrepreneurs will receive loans that will enable them to market and sell soaps, sanitizers, and sanitary products from their doorsteps. This will improve menstrual hygiene habits, especially among those who are shy and hesitant to purchase in the public market.

In Eswatini, the Water Supply and Sanitation Access project promotes a design approach to ensure that school sanitation facilities are built to meet the needs of women and girls. This includes separate facilities for men and women with door locks, lighting, waste receptacles, and handwashing stations with soap and water. Behavior change and hygiene promotion campaigns are being implemented in partnership with MHH, targeting students, teachers, parents, and the wider community.