Integrating Menstrual Health & Hygiene, Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights
Women and girls, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable, experience challenges in managing menstruation effectively and hygienically. Menstruation is often surrounded by taboos and restrictive socio-cultural practices.
Social stigma is compounded by poor knowledge of menstruation due to a lack of information and education. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is a similarly taboo topic and there is an overall lack of access to information about SRHR.
With the support of Christian Aid and in partnership with Wessex Social Ventures, a community interest group, we worked with girls and boys to provide comprehensive sexuality education in and out of school youth. This included non-judgmental, accurate information about puberty, hygiene, and menstrual health to all girls and boys, in order to increase understanding that menstruation is a normal part of girls’ development, destigmatized it, and created environments in schools where girls feel comfortable.
Through the Girls and Boys Education Movements, we created school health clubs to champion healthier living, equipped girls and boys with knowledge on basic health and the utilization of basic health services, school health planning and monitoring and evaluation of health club activities.
Teachers prepared students to be change agents in scaling up community health campaigns to influence communities and out of school youth on adolescent health, HIV and AIDS transmission, behaviour change, prevention and treatment.
Today, these health clubs have become a sustainable system for student-to-student and student-to parent education and knowledge transfer on menstrual health and innovative ways of dealing with it. In addition, this program enabled women and girls to manage their menstruation hygienically, especially with the added on sanitary pad making enterprise to create livelihood support for women and girls.
Addressing the gap: Integrating Menstrual Health into Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Since the Petal roll-out program, we developed an integrated approach to menstrual health (MH) and SRHR recognizing that MH experiences affect both the physical and social determinants of SRH. This called upon working on menstrual health in our education, sanitation and hygiene projects to better understand the linkages between MH and SRH and we recognized that integration with SRHR had the potential to amplify impact across all our programs.
Through the “One Love One Enemy” outreach program, we then developed specific actions aimed at different levels and phases of the policy and our program cycles and integrated SRHR in our MH programs to ensure essential components such as HIV prevention, treatment and care and to ensure that reproductive and maternal health care services were made available to the communities.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted health delivery systems at a magnitude that ushered in a new world, we work with the relevant line ministries with the aim of shifting gender and social norms that underpin adverse MH and SRHR outcomes and invest in high community-led research, monitoring and evaluation and learning to use data to inform key stakeholders and MH and SRH polices, and programs; and,
- Leave no one behind;
- Ensure that SRHR and MH information, education, services and programs meet the specific needs of diverse people with disabilities;
- Ensure access to tailored information and affordable trans-competent care that integrates MH and SRH with other key health services, while ensuring safety and confidentiality and tackling stigma and discrimination, and,
- Ensure that appropriate and timely SRH and MH information, education, services, and products are prioritized in all phases and sectors of humanitarian responses.