Menstrual Hygiene means all of the ways that you manage your monthly cycle: from the products you use, to the way you clean them, to how it impacts your day-to-day life. Menstrual Hygiene has become so second-nature to those of us who menstruate that you may not give it a second thought. So what’s all the fuss about Menstrual Hygiene then?
Well as it turns out, menstrual hygiene, or rather a lack of knowledge and the ability to access sanitary products, can have serious negative consequences for some menstruating people. Menstruation affects about half of the world’s population; yet in many parts of the world, the stigma and shame, as well as lack of sanitation and education around menstruation, negatively impacts the lives of millions of women and girls. From rural towns in developing countries to women who struggle with poverty and homelessness in urban communities, there are a plethora of barriers that women face to menstrual hygiene globally and locally.
Lack of Adequate Menstrual Hygiene has Negative Global Consequences
In some parts of the world, menstruation is known as a “week of shame.” According to UNICEF, 1 out of 10 school aged girls in Africa miss school for an entire week every month due to improper menstrual hygiene management. In South Pacific Asia, as many as 97% of young girls do not know that menstrual blood comes from the uterus and many are not taught about menstruation before they begin menstruating. A recent article in The Guardian also described how the outlawed and traditional practice of banning women from the home, sometimes to a cow shed, during their week-long menstrual cycle is still practiced in rural parts of Nepal.
In some regions, women and girls have no option but to use old rags, mud and leaves to care for their periods. Disposables are sometimes rarely an option, and when they are available, they can be extremely expensive and often pose a serious environmental risk as there is seldom an appropriate infrastructure in place to handle the waste from plastic wrappers, applicators, and synthetic fibers.
Many communities continue to have limited access to clean water, health care and life essentials, including feminine hygiene protection. To add to this, cultural barriers can often include stigma, taboos, and shame around menstruation that in turn limit education and knowledge about menstrual hygiene.
Local Perspectives on Menstrual Hygiene
Communities of women and women in transition who struggle with poverty and homelessness also face many challenges when it comes to accessing feminine hygiene products. Families living in poverty can be forced to choose between spending money on rent, food, survival necessities or menstrual products. Once again, disposable menstrual products are often a short term solution to an ongoing need. Communal Support initiatives such as food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens work hard to address some of the essential needs of people-in-need but frequently menstrual hygiene support can be deprioritized or not part of the conversation.
Menstrual Hygiene Day
In an effort to raise awareness of these barriers to menstruation, Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day dedicated to building awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene and the taboos surrounding menstruation, is observed on May 28th.
Are Menstrual Cups the Solution?
While menstrual cups like The DivaCup may seem like a great solution for women and girls who face barriers to menstruation, there are a few things that need to be considered. Populations in need sometimes lack or have severely limited access to clean potable water as well as health care services. This can unfortunately pose a serious health concern as the cups cannot be properly cleaned or cared for. Similarly, a lack of access to proper hand hygiene can also pose a health concern for using an internal product like a menstrual cup. In addition to this, access to medical care and education is often lacking. Internally worn products are also not recommended if the hymen needs to stay intact and in some cultures this is a concern.
While The DivaCup would love to help by sending our reusable menstrual cups, the reality is that this is not always the best course of action given the cultural and medical barriers.
Diva Helps by Partnering with Lunapads and the One4Her Program
That is why The DivaCup partners with Lunapads for the One4Her program for Menstrual Hygiene Day. The One4Her programs helps supply reusablecloth pads to women and girls in Zimbabwe,
Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. We feel this program both meets the needs and ensures sanitary protection for women and girls. This year our Menstrual Hygiene Day Campaign will help supply the students of the Mackay School in Uganda with a set of reusable pads from AFRIpads.
For every The DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com for the entire month of May, Diva will donate a set of reusable pads to these students in Uganda. It’s a simple one for one: you buy a cup, we donate a set of reusable pads. Last year we donated 500 kits and our goal for this year is 600! Together, we can empower girls and women in need to have a better period experience. This May, make a #DivaDifference!
Other ways Diva Helps
Diva is also actively working with reputable organizations across the globe to provide cups to those in need. We have several large donation projects in Mali, Guatemala, and Ghana to provide cups to girls and young women in rural boarding schools, orphanages and urban communities. Often, a school based setting is a one of the best ways to introduce the option of menstrual cups into the community, so that the students are learning how to use the cup together and we can ensure they have potable water and facilities onsite to care for their cups.
We also have set up two pilot projects in Haiti and Tanzania to see how well the cup is received and for an assessment of if a menstrual cup is the right option for these communities. Partnering with health care professionals, such as doctors, nurses, midwives and birthing assistants in these communities has helped ensure that those receiving a cup will have access to ongoing healthcare services they need when there is often limited healthcare services available.
We are excited for these donation opportunities and the fantastic organizations we are working with and are continuing to improve menstrual care access so that all women can benefit from using a menstrual cup.
Diva International Inc. is committed to helping women find access to feminine hygiene products. If there is an organization that you feel may benefit from our support please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.