Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed annually on May 28, serves as a platform to shed light on the significance of good menstrual hygiene, challenges societal taboos surrounding menstruation and raises awareness about the obstacles faced in accessing menstrual products. With an estimated 1.8 billion individuals menstruating worldwide, including girls, women, transgender men, and non-binary persons, it is crucial to address the range of issues they encounter, from stigma and social exclusion to gender inequality and lack of basic services. This article explores the importance of menstrual hygiene, the history and significance of Menstrual Hygiene Day, and the ongoing challenges surrounding menstrual health and hygiene.
Understanding Menstrual Hygiene
Menstruation is a natural process wherein the uterus sheds blood and tissue from the uterine lining, which is then expelled through the vagina. Menstrual hygiene refers to the ability to access products that effectively absorb or collect menstrual flow, maintain privacy while changing pads or menstrual cups, and access proper facilities for the disposal of used products.
Menstrual Hygiene Day
Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated on May 28th each year because it symbolically represents the average length of the menstrual cycle, which is around 28 days. Additionally, it is estimated that individuals menstruate for approximately five days each month. The chosen date aims to raise awareness and highlight the importance of menstrual hygiene by aligning with the natural biological process. By selecting May 28th, Menstrual Hygiene Day aims to promote discussions, education, and action related to menstrual health and hygiene, and break the stigma surrounding menstruation on a global scale.
History and Theme of Menstrual Hygiene Day
Menstrual Hygiene Day was initiated by the Germany-based NGO WASH United in 2013. It began as a 28-day social media campaign aimed at spreading awareness and breaking the silence surrounding menstruation. The campaign addressed various aspects of menstruation, including taboos, myths, and challenges faced by individuals worldwide. The positive response to the campaign led to the establishment of Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed annually on May 28th. Since its inception in 2014, Menstrual Hygiene Day has been marked by rallies, exhibitions, workshops, speeches, and other events globally. Its purpose is to promote dialogue, education, and action to improve menstrual hygiene management and empower individuals who menstruate.
Menstrual hygiene is significant for the well-being, dignity, and empowerment of individuals who menstruate. It involves access to clean products, personal hygiene, and managing discomfort. Proper menstrual hygiene prevents infections and reproductive health complications. It also promotes gender equality, education, and social inclusion. Lack of access to affordable products and societal taboos can negatively impact individuals' lives.
Awareness of Challenges and Health Risks
The lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities poses significant challenges for women and girls during their menstrual cycles. Insufficient access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene can even be a matter of life and death. Illnesses related to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene were responsible for nearly 800,000 women's deaths globally in a single year. Unhealthy menstrual hygiene management can lead to various health risks, such as dermatitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), genital tract infections, alterations in vaginal secretions' pH balance, bacterial vaginosis, and increased susceptibility to cervical cancer.
Menstruation is surrounded by various social issues that can affect girls and women. Here are a few:
Stigma and shame: Menstruation is often stigmatized in many societies, leading to feelings of shame and embarrassment for girls and women. This stigma can prevent open conversations about menstruation, resulting in a lack of awareness and perpetuation of myths and misconceptions.
Lack of education: Menstrual education is often inadequate or nonexistent in many communities, leaving girls without proper knowledge about menstrual health, hygiene practices, and managing their periods. This lack of education can contribute to confusion, fear, and poor menstrual health management.
Limited access to resources: In some areas, girls and women face challenges in accessing affordable and hygienic menstrual products. The high cost of sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups can make it difficult for those with limited financial means to maintain good menstrual hygiene.
Disruption of daily activities: Cultural norms or beliefs may restrict girls and women from participating in certain activities during their periods. This exclusion can affect their involvement in school, work, sports, or social events, limiting their opportunities and perpetuating gender inequalities.
Inadequate sanitation facilities: Many girls and women lack access to clean and private toilets or sanitation facilities equipped for managing menstruation. Inadequate facilities can compromise hygiene, increase the risk of infections, and contribute to discomfort and embarrassment.
Gender inequality: Menstruation is often viewed as a women's issue and is associated with gender discrimination. Limited understanding and acceptance of menstruation can perpetuate gender stereotypes and hinder gender equality efforts.
Lack of supportive policies: Some countries lack policies that address menstrual health and hygiene, resulting in limited support for girls and women. The absence of supportive policies can hinder access to menstrual products, education, and adequate sanitation facilities.
Menstrual Hygiene Day serves as a vital platform to advocate for the importance of proper menstrual hygiene practices, break social stigmas, and raise awareness about the challenges surrounding menstrual health and hygiene. It is imperative to prioritize access to affordable and hygienic menstrual products, improve sanitation facilities, and promote comprehensive education on menstruation. By addressing these issues, we can contribute to a world where menstruation is no longer a barrier but rather a natural and respected aspect of life.