Menstrual Hygiene: A Neglected Condition for the Achievement of Several Millennium Development Goals
What is the relationship between poor menstrual hygiene and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? If state and non–state actors do not undertake immediate action to improve the achievement of menstrual hygiene, the participation of girls, in particular in Africa and Asia, in the higher forms of primary and secondary education will continue to lag and MDG 2 (achieve universal primary education) will not be met. Many girls are kept at home when they start menstruating, either permanently or temporarily. The consequence of this is that girls get left behind and, in the larger picture, MDG 3 (promote gender equality and empower women) cannot be achieved. Menstrual hygiene also seems to be an insufficiently acknowledged problem with regard to MDG 7 (ensure environmental sustainability). This paper outlines the cultural reasons why poor menstrual hygiene is not being addressed as well as the ways in which menstrual hygiene contributes to a growing waste problem. It also highlights ways in which, despite a universal political neglect of poor menstruation hygiene as a problem, grassroots initiatives are addressing it in relation to both school dropout and waste management. For example in Uganda FAWE Uganda organises workshops for open dialogue on menstruation and menstrual hygiene and is seeking to get legislation for the free supply of sanitary napkins to girls at schools. In Bangladesh sanitary napkins are produced locally at a reasonable price on the initiative of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). Recommendations include a multi–sectoral action programme– for which partners at different levels are needed. NGOs can sensitise local populations and build awareness of the importance and advantages of sanitary napkins. Governments can play their part by doing their utmost to reduce tax on sanitary napkins (by reclassifying them not as luxury good but as a necessary item).