Menstruation is a natural and essential part of the reproductive cycle. However, in most parts of the world it remains a taboo subject that is rarely talked about. These taboos restrict the participation of women and girls in society during menstruation. In addition, limited access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities and sanitary napkins make it difficult for women to manage their menstruation hygienically. As a result, many (young) women around the world face considerable physical and social challenges during their menstruation period.
The Simavi Approach
Simavi believes that solutions for menstruation issues are vital in ensuring basic health for women and girls around the world. Challenges faced by girls and women during menstruation are related to lack of proper (use of) water, sanitation and hygiene facilities as well as lack of knowledge and taboos. Therefore Simavi sees Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) as relevant to both its WASH and SRHR programmes.
Existing MHM programmes often focus on WASH, meaning that interventions are targeted towards improving access to water and sanitation facilities for girls and women, and increasing awareness on hygiene during menstruation (timely change of cloths and pads, (hand) washing, and proper washing and drying of reusable pads or cloths). The impact of these interventions can be strengthened by integrating a SRHR approach and including activities focused on raising awareness by addressing taboos and existing gender norms.
Simavi approaches menstrual hygiene in three ways:
- Create awareness on sexuality, reproductive cycle and menstrual hygiene among girls, women and men in order to empower women to take care of themselves during their menstruation, self-develop and live a healthy life.
- Create a supportive environment, in which menstruation is socially accepted and women are not excluded or discriminated against because of their monthly periods.
- Improve access to services, such as sanitary pads and SRHR services, as well as sanitation facilities and clean water.
In addition, we seek innovative solutions and partnerships with the private sector to make disposable sanitary pads available to BoP women. We strive for sustainability in our programmes, e.g. social business models that are sustainable without (long term) funding. We also consider the impact on the environment when implementing menstrual hygiene management; we are looking into the creation of a biodegradable napkin and trying to find solutions for discreet and sustainable waste management.
With our combined WASH and SRHR approach on MHM we create access to WASH facilities and sanitary napkins as well as increased knowledge and an enabling (social and cultural) environment. This leads to a sustainable change in health and overall wellbeing of women and girls of reproductive age – an important step towards basic health.
For case studies and a more detailed explanation of how Simavi uses MHM to empower marginalised communities in Africa and Asia, please download our factsheet here.