Integrating menstrual hygiene into aid programming

“Unfortunately, the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation makes finding solutions for menstrual hygiene management a low priority,” says Catarina De Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, in the report’s foreword.

About 52 percent of the female population is of reproductive age. Yet in many cultures, menstruation means seclusion or even dietary restrictions. A lack of private hygiene facilities in schools fuels absenteeism among girls , and menstruation can be used to bar women from some jobs .

“Reports have suggested links between poor menstrual hygiene and urinary or reproductive tract infections and other illnesses,” adds the report, noting that “the impact of poor menstrual hygiene on the psychosocial well-being of women and girls (e.g., stress levels, fear and embarrassment, and social exclusion during menstruation) should also be considered”.

Men and boys have important roles in helping girls and women by, for example, providing funds for sanitary materials and challenging taboos and stigma. But they are often restricted by culture. “Our husbands don’t look at us… They only give us five days free from sex,” an interviewee from Nigeria says in the report.

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