Celebrating Womanhood - How better menstrual hygiene management is the path to better health, dignity and business
There are many candidates for the title of “last taboo,” but in 2013, menstruation has
one of the strongest claims on it. The first task to address this is to make this
unspeakable topic speakable. This report aims to do that by presenting research
shared from Celebrating Womanhood, a meeting held by the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in Geneva in March 2013, along with insights from meeting participants. Attendees were from engineering, health and education backgrounds and specialisms, and also from business, marketing, agricultural economics, waste management and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH). On any given day, 300 million women and girls will be menstruating. Women and girls are supposed to cope with menstruation silently and invisibly. Silence and taboo is not restricted to villages, schools or developing countries however, menstruation has been a blind spot for decades in the highest policy-making arenas. Lack of facilities and appropriate sanitary products can push menstruating girls out of school, temporarily and sometimes permanently. Recommendations for addressing poor menstrual hygiene are framed in the context of new partnerships and encounters between different sectors and innovations and connections that hadn't occurred to participants before the meeting – for example there is potential for linking menstrual hygiene management education with the roll-out of the HPV vaccine. Menstrual hygiene needs to be linked to issues that politicians focus attention and funding on such as girl child education, girl empowerment and health. At a policy level menstrual hygiene could be included as an indicator in post-2015 planning. Broadly, more large scale studies, education, learning and partnership is required.