Long Read

Ritu is promoting menstrual hygiene management

Ritu is a girl’s name that means ‘season’ in Bangladesh. It also refers to a girl’s monthly period and will be the name of an animation figure that plays a central role in one of Simavi’s most recent programmes.  Together with RedOrange -a Bangladeshi  media and communication agency-, knowledge institute TNO, and with support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), we will implement this programme to promote menstrual hygiene management in Bangladesh. Our main goal is to improve the health, well being, and social and economic participation of women and girls.

Menstruation is not openly discussed in Bangladesh due to social norms and cultural beliefs around the body and blood. As a result, girls are often not prepared for their first period and women and girls lack the necessary skills and information to hygienically manage their periods. In addition, women and girls face several restrictions during their periods that prevent them from participating in normal daily life.

Challenges

The cloths that are used by most women to manage their bleeding are often reused and washed with dirty water.

Another challenge that women and girls face is the lack of access to proper sanitary facilities, including clean water, to wash themselves and change their cloth or napkins. The cloths that are used by most women to manage their bleeding are often reused and washed with dirty water. They often hide their cloths and don’t dry them in the sun to prevent bacteria growth, because men are not allowed to see these cloths.

Due to these restrictions and the lack of information and facilities, women and girls struggle to maintain the necessary hygiene during their menstruation. This results in discomfort and increased occurrence of infections and can jeopardize women’s sexual and reproductive health.

Ritu breaks the silence on menstruation

Ritu, an animation figure symbolising a school-going girl, will be the face of a national campaign. With this campaign, we will provide girls and women with information about menstruation and skills to manage their menstruation hygienically. Boys and men will also be involved to raise awareness and address the taboos on the topic.

Ritu will play a role in various media, such as a television show, website, social media and news papers. In addition, the Ritu peer educators will visit schools and communities. To ensure ongoing information sharing, teachers will be trained and provided with teaching materials to discuss menstrual hygiene with girls in class. Together with parents and teachers we will ensure that girls have access to menstrual hygiene-friendly toilets at schools as well.

We will also collaborate with like minded partner organisations to build on existing knowledge and experiences, implement joint activities and  advocate to put menstrual hygiene management on the political agenda.

Biodegradable sanitary napkins

Disposable or reusable sanitary napkins are often not available, too expensive or sold by men, which is a barrier for women to purchase them. However, when made available, disposable napkins create a huge impact on the environment and due to the absorbed blood form a challenge to process in regular waste management cycles.

Together with TNO and a private partner in Bangladesh, we will develop and produce biodegradable sanitary napkins. The involvement of the private sector is important to ensure supplies can actually be provided in a cost-efficient way and at scale.

With the introduction of Ritu, we encourage girls and women to make well-informed choices and provide access to  affordable and environmentally friendly sanitary napkins. In this way, every girl and woman in Bangladesh can manage their menstruation and will not be hindered during their period to  go to school, work or participate in everyday life.

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