Tag Archives: menstruation

Menstrual hygiene: breaking the silence

International Women’s Day 2012 – Menstrual hygiene: breaking the silence

Source: Belen Toronde | March 1, 2012

Belen Torondel is a microbiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is conducting a systematic review of evidence regarding menstrual hygiene management for SHARE a consortium researching sanitation and hygiene solutions. The opinions expressed are her own. 

Women lash themselves with the leaves of the Aghada plant along the banks of the Bagmati River, during the Rishi Panchami festival, in Kathmandu September 2, 2011. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Menstruation is a major part of life for millions of young girls and women worldwide. On average, a woman will menstruate for 3,000 days during her lifetime.

However, the needs and challenges faced by many young women and girls as they struggle to manage their menstrual hygiene are largely ignored, especially in developing countries. This situation persists despite new developments in the hygiene and sanitation sector in recent years.

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Nepal – Talking about menstruation

KATHMANDU, Sept 25: Nepal has come a long way in recent history in terms of gender equality, but if there is one issue that is still under a silent veil its menstruation. The taboos and lack of information regarding the monthly bleedings is slowly being addressed in schools.

“In Nepal, the main issue is embarrassment and lack of information about how to take care of your menstruation in a healthy and hygienic way,” says Anna Guiney, project officer of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) under UNICEF.

The silence and embarrassment goes hand in hand with feelings of being dirty and impure and transcends school and life at home. In retelling her experience, 24 year old Shreejana Bajracharya says, “My mom didn’t teach me anything. I’m the oldest daughter in the family and when I first got my period I was scared.”

Despite having older female cousins, Shreejana was in no way informed about what was happening to her body and felt alone in her experience. “My mom didn’t explain it properly, if my younger sisters saw I had blood on my clothes my mother didn’t explain it to them either. I felt like something was wrong with me and I was the only one going through it.”

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Nepal: new study says impact of menstruation on school attendance is overstated

A new study stating that menstruation has little impact on school attendance casts serious doubt on the popular assumption that the provision of sanitary products can significantly affect the education gap. That assertion has been criticized by some Nepali experts, noting that the study was carried out in one of the country’s most developed urban areas.

“Such a claim can only undermine the much-needed menstrual hygiene and management to be introduced in schools by the government and integrated in the overall hygiene intervention,” one expert, who asked not to be identified, said. [IRIN, 2 May 2010]

The study [1] was part of the Menstruation and Education in Nepal project, supported by the University of Michigan, University of Chicago and Harvard University. Research in four schools in Chitwan District, nearly 300km west of the capital Kathmandu, revealed that girls missed only about a third of a day per year because of their period. This is much less than the 10 to 20 percent quoted by other sources such as the World Bank.

As the story goes, girls miss significant amount of school during menstruation, largely because of lack of modern sanitary products, and this contributes to lower attendance rates, eventual failure, or dropping out.

Part of the appeal of this explanation is that the fix is so easy.  There is no need to change attitudes about female schooling, to provide funds for uniforms or textbooks, or to construct new schools closer to girls’ homes; instead, the menstruation theory suggests simply providing sanitary products could significantly affect the education gap.

At least one sanitary product manufacturer has jumped on this fix: In 2007, Procter & Gamble announced its support for the Protecting Futures Program, which provides sanitary pads and hygiene education to girls in Africa.  Other organizations (the Clinton Global Initiative, for example) have pledged millions of dollars to finance better sanitary products in the developing world.

Mothers and daughters learn about modern sanitary products in Chitwan, Nepal. Photo: Krishna Ghimire

Researchers Emily Oster and Rebecca Thornton say the claim that girls miss significant amounts of school during their periods is largely based, up till now, on anecdotes and assumptions.

We started by asking girls whether they missed school during their period; similar to other studies, over half reported ever missing school days due to menstruation.

Rather than leaving the analysis there, however, we quantified the amount of school missed because of periods by collecting detailed information on dates of menstruation and school attendance for the entire school year.

Although girls in our sample were indeed less likely to attend school on days they had their period, the effect is very, very tiny. On non-period days, girls were in school about 85.7 percent of the time; on days they are menstruating, they were in school 83.0 percent of the time (a difference of only 3.2 percent).

The researchers also found that proving better sanitary products – in their case menstrual cups – made no difference in closing the (very small) attendance gap.

Based on the evidence on schooling and in our randomized study, we conclude that better sanitary products are not likely to be an effective “quick fix” for girls’ education. This does not suggest we should limit our efforts at increasing schooling for girls, but it does point to the need for quantitative data to evaluate what efforts will be the most effective.

[1] Oster, E. and Thornton, R. (2010). Menstruation, sanitary products and school attendance : evidence from a randomized evaluation. Forthcoming article in: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Full paper

Source: Emily Oster and Rebecca Thornton, Are ‘Feminine Problems’ Keeping Poor Girls Out of School?, New York Times Economix, 27 Apr 2010

Countering menstrual hygiene taboos in Nepal

A renowned contemporary artist is taking her form of menstrual activism to the streets of Kathmandu.

Ashmina Ranjit's performance. Photo: Cor Dietvorst

All eyes at the Alliance Française in Kathmandu were on Ashmina Ranjit when she entered the grounds in a dress made entirely of sanitary napkins. From a thin tube she squirted blood on the napkins, one at a time, folded them and deposited them in a waste basket. Besides her performance, the visual artist and activist had transformed the women’s toilet at the Alliance Française into an installation by fully covering its interior with sanitary napkins. Ashmina Ranjit’s performance took place on 12 March during the “Week of the Women” organised by the Alliance Française to celebrate International Women’s Day (8 March).

In many countries like Nepal, women are considered to be “impure” during their menstrual cycle and are prohibited to take part in social life. With her performance, Ashwina Ranjit attempts to remove the taboos surrounding menstruation. In her eyes, menstruation is a natural phenomenon that should be celebrated as a feminine force.

During Ashmina Ranjit’s performance, leaflets on menstrual hygiene management were handed out to the audience. Many girls who drop out of school do so because they do not have access to sanitary napkins and separate toilets, the leaflet said. Neglecting menstrual hygiene can also lead to chronic health problems. WaterAid Nepal and other local NGOs are raising awareness about the importance of better menstrual hygiene practices especially in rural areas. In 2009, WaterAid Nepal published a study on menstrual hygiene in four schools.

Meanwhile, Ashmina Ranjit will continue her own artistic form of menstrual activism. The next venue for her controversial performance will be the streets of Kathmandu.

Installation by Ashmina Ranjit. Photo: Cor Dietvorst

Nepal, Dailekh: toilets replace ‘Chhaupadi’ (menstruation) sheds

Residents in Sihasain of Dailekh are busy constructing toilets by destroying the cowsheds used by menstruating women following the tradition of ‘Chhaupadi’. Residents of Sihasain VDC-2 have destroyed 45 such cowsheds and replaced them with toilets.

As per the tradition, the women in Dailekh have been compelled to stay in cowsheds for eight days during menstruation eating only plain ‘roti’.

The Rural Water Resource Management Project supported has helped the villagers construct toilets, taps and juthelnas (place for cleaning dishes and utensils) in all nine wards of the remote Sihasain VDC. .

Source: Naya Patrika / NGO Forum, 26 Jun 2009