By Auwal Yunusa
Menstruation is a natural and vital aspect of a woman’s life. Yet, it remains surrounded by taboos, myths, and cultural stigmas that often hinder women’s health, education, and empowerment. Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed annually on May 28th, serves as a reminder of the urgent need to break these barriers and make menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030. This article delves into the significance of this year’s theme, explores the challenges faced by women worldwide, and highlights the steps we can take collectively to ensure menstrual hygiene becomes an accepted and celebrated part of every woman’s life.
Challenges and Barriers:
1. Stigma and Taboos: Menstruation is still regarded as a taboo subject in many societies, leading to secrecy, shame, and misinformation. Such stigmas perpetuate myths and restrict open conversations about menstruation.
2. Lack of Education: Insufficient education about menstruation contributes to the perpetuation of myths and misconceptions. Many girls and women lack accurate information about menstrual hygiene management, leading to adverse health effects and limited opportunities for personal and professional growth.
3. Limited Access to Sanitary Products: Inadequate access to affordable and safe menstrual products is a significant hurdle faced by women, especially in low-income communities. Lack of access to proper menstrual products can lead to unhygienic practices, health risks, and social exclusion.
4. Poor Sanitation Facilities: The absence of clean and safe sanitation facilities in schools, workplaces, and public spaces poses a significant challenge for menstruating women. The lack of private and hygienic spaces makes it difficult for women to manage their periods with dignity and comfort.
5. Socioeconomic Constraints: Economic factors can affect a woman’s ability to manage menstruation effectively. Many girls and women cannot afford sanitary products, which forces them to resort to unhygienic alternatives or miss out on education and economic opportunities.
Steps Towards Normalizing Menstruation:
1. Education and Awareness: Comprehensive menstrual health education should be integrated into school curricula to dispel myths, break taboos, and promote a positive understanding of menstruation. Open conversations within families, communities, and the media can also contribute to raising awareness and reducing stigma.
2. Access to Menstrual Products: Governments, NGOs, and private enterprises should work together to ensure affordable and accessible menstrual products for all women. Subsidized or free distribution of sanitary products can help eliminate financial barriers and ensure that no woman has to compromise her health or dignity due to the lack of menstrual products.
3. Sanitation Infrastructure: Investments in sanitation infrastructure, including the provision of clean toilets, private changing rooms, and waste disposal systems, are crucial to creating an enabling environment for women to manage their periods hygienically and comfortably.
4. Empowerment and Support: Women and girls should be empowered to make informed decisions about their menstrual health. Access to support networks, healthcare services, and counseling can contribute to their overall well-being and enable them to participate fully in social, educational, and economic activities.
5. Engaging Men and Boys: Men and boys play a crucial role in normalizing menstruation. By challenging societal norms, advocating for gender equality, and supporting women’s menstrual health needs, they can help create a more inclusive and accepting environment for menstruation.
Celoha Nigeria highlights the major role Government NGOs and CBOs can play toward realising this dream by 2030
The major roles that governments, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), and CBOs (Community-Based Organizations) can play towards achieving the normalization of menstruation by 2030 are as follows:
1. Policy and Advocacy: Governments can create and implement policies that address menstrual health and hygiene, including integrating menstrual health education into school curricula, providing subsidies for sanitary products, and ensuring the availability of clean and safe sanitation facilities. NGOs and CBOs can advocate for these policies, raise awareness among policymakers, and collaborate with governments to develop effective strategies.
2. Education and Awareness Programs: NGOs and CBOs can design and implement comprehensive menstrual health education programs in schools, communities, and workplaces. These programs should aim to dispel myths, provide accurate information about menstrual hygiene management, and promote positive attitudes towards menstruation. They can also conduct awareness campaigns through various media channels to reach a wider audience.
3. Access to Menstrual Products: NGOs and CBOs can collaborate with governments, businesses, and donors to ensure the availability of affordable and quality menstrual products. They can establish distribution networks, set up production facilities, or provide subsidies to make sanitary products accessible to women and girls, especially those from marginalized communities.
4. Sanitation Infrastructure Development: Governments, NGOs, and CBOs can work together to improve sanitation infrastructure by building clean and safe toilets, private changing rooms, and waste disposal systems in schools, public spaces, and workplaces. They can also support the maintenance and regular cleaning of these facilities to ensure their sustainability.
5. Capacity Building and Training: NGOs and CBOs can provide training and capacity-building programs to healthcare providers, teachers, community leaders, and volunteers on menstrual health and hygiene. These programs can focus on imparting knowledge about menstrual health, addressing cultural barriers, and developing skills to support women and girls in managing their periods with dignity.
6. Research and Data Collection: Governments, NGOs, and CBOs can collaborate to conduct research on menstrual health and hygiene, collect data on the prevalence of menstrual-related issues, and assess the impact of interventions. This data can inform evidence-based policies and programs, as well as contribute to global knowledge on menstruation.
7. Collaboration and Partnerships: Governments, NGOs, and CBOs can foster partnerships at local, national, and international levels to leverage resources, expertise, and knowledge. Collaborative efforts can include sharing best practices, coordinating advocacy campaigns, and pooling resources to scale up interventions and reach more women and girls.
8. Monitoring and Evaluation: Governments, NGOs, and CBOs should establish mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the impact of their interventions. This includes tracking progress towards the normalization of menstruation, assessing the effectiveness of programs, and identifying areas for improvement. Regular monitoring and evaluation help in identifying successful approaches and refining strategies accordingly.
In conclusion, achieving the normalization of menstruation by 2030 requires a collaborative and multi-faceted approach involving governments, NGOs, and CBOs. By fulfilling their respective roles, these stakeholders can pave the way for a world where menstruation is no longer shrouded in silence, stigma, and inequality.
Governments have a crucial role in setting policies, integrating menstrual health education, and investing in sanitation infrastructure. Their commitment and action can create an enabling environment where women and girls can manage their periods with dignity and without hindrance.
NGOs and CBOs play a vital part in raising awareness, providing education, and ensuring access to affordable menstrual products. Their grassroots efforts, advocacy, and community engagement can bring about a cultural shift, dispelling myths, and promoting positive attitudes towards menstruation.
Collaboration and partnerships between these stakeholders are key to amplifying impact and leveraging resources. By joining forces, sharing knowledge, and coordinating efforts, governments, NGOs, and CBOs can drive systemic change and reach more women and girls in need.
As we work towards making menstruation a normal fact of life, we must prioritize education, awareness, and empowerment. Breaking down taboos, providing accurate information, and fostering supportive environments are essential steps towards empowering women and girls to embrace their periods as a natural and healthy part of life.
It is through the collective commitment and concerted efforts of governments, NGOs, CBOs, communities, and individuals that we can create a world where menstruation is no longer a barrier but a catalyst for gender equality, women’s empowerment, and overall well-being. Let us strive together to make menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030, ensuring that every woman and girl can manage her menstrual health with dignity, respect, and without limitations.