#HappyFlow Monday: How can we integrate Menstrual Hygiene Management to achieve the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are crucial goals which we need to achieve in order to create a better world for all, leaving no one behind. Set out by the UN to be achieved by 2030, the SDGs identify key areas where change is needed. You can find out more about how the SDGs relate to SRHR by using our SDG Toolkit.

This week we asked network members the question: How can we integrate Menstrual Hygiene Management to achieve the SDGs?

Anusha Rawoah – Mauritius

In the wake of the multiple challenges women and girls face, it is evident that promoting menstrual hygiene management is not only a sanitation matter, but a crucial step towards safeguarding the dignity, and rights of women. The perils of insufficient menstrual hygiene practices have a ripple effect on the socioeconomic development of the nation. Hence, menstrual hygiene is essential to achieve many of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Ephraim Chimwaza – Malawi.

Access to clean water is a key determinant that affects adolescent girls in schools. Lack of access to clean water contributes to school drop out and poor performance among adolescent girls in schools because they failed to manage menstrual health. Education for girls is undermined mostly in rural areas because of lack of clean water which is a burden during their menstrual period and can endanger their health and safety. Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene is essential to proper menstrual hygiene management and also intrinsically linked to success across the SDGs. This is particularly the case of the SDGs related to education including comprehensive sexual education, gender equality and equal opportunities.

Vincent Uhega – Tanzania

Menstrual hygiene management has been defined as: ‘Women and adolescent girls using clean menstrual management materials to absorb or collect blood, which can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of their menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to such’.

Inequality in relation to menstrual hygiene management has many causes, such as lack of information about menstruation, unsatisfactory sanitation infrastructure, supplies often being unavailable or unaffordable, and unfortunately in many places around the world, the fact that menstruation is a taboo topic.

The goal of menstrual hygiene management is to ensure that women and girls can manage their periods in a way that is not only healthy, but that enables their full participation in school, work, and other activities. The field of sexual and reproductive health and rights has not embraced menstrual hygiene management.

In that case we can integrate MHM through educating the community and supporting young girls and women to attain good service which is friendly to them – for example free or VAT-less Sanitary Pads, Toilet paper and enough information about Menstrual Hygiene for teen girls and women. This will lead to the achievement of the SDGs, because we realize that many SDGs relating to MHM such as SDG Goals 1, 3, 4 and 8 are all dependant on well conducted MHM. Young girls cannot access quality education if there is no way of supporting them through good MHM and the abovementioned SDGs.

Robert Aseda Ouko – Kenya

The Sustainable Development Goals are about Leaving No One Behind. They are about all of us, together for a better world. If we are to achieve these goals then we cannot afford to leave behind menstrual health or young girls and young women who are often excluded from development because of inadequate access to sanitary pads and privacy. Young girls and women must therefore be meaningfully engaged in conversations on SDGs in order to best incorporate key issues mostly overlooked including menstrual hygiene.

Georgina Mabezere – Zambia

Water or the lack of it touches the lives of everyone, the world over. It also touches through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for girls and women, water access is a key determinant that affects hygiene, schooling, and work. Lack of access to clean water contributes to maternal mortality and morbidity; the inability to effectively manage menstrual health undermines girls’ education; and, when clean water is not easily accessible, women and girls are burdened with collecting water, which can endanger their health and safety.

While access to water, sanitation, and hygiene is central to proper menstrual hygiene management, menstrual hygiene is also intrinsically linked to success across the SDGs. This is particularly the case for the SDGs related to education—including comprehensive sexual education—gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, child marriage, sustainable consumption, and economic opportunity, among others.

Despite the fact that 800 million women and girls menstruate every day, menstruation remains shrouded in silence and taboos. Women and girls lack dedicated, integrated services and information to menstruate in dignity, obstructed not only by lacking infrastructure—including the fact that one in three women live without a decent toilet—but also deeper challenges of gender norms, myths, and stigma.

*Without proper facilities at either school or home, girls are presented with few options for privacy and safety. Girls living in poverty have limited access to menstrual hygiene products, which are primarily disposable and cost-prohibitive, posing problems for access, sustainability, and hygienic waste management.

Daniel Nii Ankrah – Ghana

Seeing that many SRHR focused initiatives lack a proper young women and girls centered approach raises concern about their health, education and development. The adoption of the SDGs particularly Goal 5, across Africa requires a gender transformative lens for success. One of its targets “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” is very critical to gender equality.

As a matter of necessity, national policy consultations and debates must be gender sensitive and include young women and girls. Young women and girls menstruate, therefore it is fundamental that they are included in policy making and implementation that affects their menstrual health and overall wellbeing. This will facilitate co-ownership and successful outcomes.

In addition, states must employ a systems approach to address issues of menstrual health management by investing in education, health and law as regards menstrual health issues. Negative stereotypes, laws, institutions and norms that sustain poor menstrual health management must be targeted and addressed as they infringe on the rights of young women and girls.

These will attune national and regional policy frameworks to the SDGs and support progress towards and achievement of the Global goals.

Gomolemo Seabi – South Africa

At the core of all SDG’s is Human well-being. Menstrual Hygiene Management is not only a women issue but a Human concern.

To achieve integrated SDG strategies and execution plans, Governments, Firms and all citizens must actively advocate for Menstrual Hygiene Management as they would include safety and security measures in their strategies and plans.

Nyasha Phanisa Sithole – Zimbabwe

It is very important to unpack and address issues around Menstrual Health Management (MHM) at all levels. Menstrual Health Management is linked to SDGs, not only is it linked to the goal on water and sanitation, it also links to the goal on good health and well-being, quality education, and decent work and economic growth. For us to achieve the SDGs we need to focus on Menstrual Health Management. SDG 4 is on Quality Education – there are thousands of girls who miss school because they are menstruating. The SDG’s mantra is ‘Leaving no one behind’. We do not want to leave anyone behind, for instance indigenous women, women with disabilities, refugees and migrants, homeless women and the LGBTIQ+ community, who all face overlapping forms of discrimination and are often left out of Menstrual Health Management Conversations. The same mantra we are using of leaving no one behind is the same we must use when we talk of MHM, leaving no one behind. Engage, involve and let all women in their diversities be part of the conversation and processes as this will help us achieve the SDGs.