Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day and we are highlighting the urgent need for good menstrual health.

 Across the world, girls and women have the right to have a period safely and with dignity as safe Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is the foundation for sexual and reproductive health and rights for half the world’s population.

 Unfortunately the Coronavirus Pandemic is making the gender inequalities already faced by women and girls so much worse. This is because women and girls are the primary carers for sick family members. They already face security risks from open defecation, they miss school and work due to having to fetch water for the family, girls also miss school during their periods due to inadequate toilets in school, and through lack of knowledge and resources to manage their periods.

Due to the pandemic, most schools are currently now closed and childcare across the world is falling mainly to mothers rather than fathers.  Accessing sanitary materials has become even harder due to restricted movement, stretched incomes, or in many cases a complete loss of income, meaning that buying sanitary products is not a priority and access to health care is even harder and more costly. Poor menstrual hygiene has been associated with serious ill-health, including reproductive tract and urinary tract infections. All of this is on top of understandable fear and anxiety about coronavirus.

WASH and MHM addresses many of these problems, and knowledge of safe practices and affordable products enables women and girls to manage periods and increases girls’ self-confidence and opportunities.

Just a Drop have been working in schools in Uganda for four years ensuring that there are adequate water and separate toilets available for girls and boys, providing training on soap making to ensure a constant supply of soap throughout the school. We provide training on Menstrual health and puberty and provide girls with a pack of reusable sanitary pads alongside training in making reusable sanitary pads. Through involving teachers and parents we help keep the learning within schools and communities.

We are excited to have MHM programmes starting in Kenya, Zambia and Cambodia this year. More than 65% of the female population in Kenya cannot afford sanitary pads and 65% of Kenyan schoolgirls use home-made alternatives to sanitary pads which are often unhygienic and cause infections. In Zambia up to 20 – 30% of girls miss school during their period. In Cambodia, similar to most countries, the poorest face the greatest challenges accessing appropriate facilities, products and information and these challenges are amplified for women and girls with disabilities. In these countries we will be providing education on menstruation and puberty in schools and in communities, we will be training our local partners to deliver high quality training themselves: they have built trust and respect with the communities and schools due to years working closely with them, so are best placed to support girls and women on menstrual health. We will teach girls and women to make their own reusable sanitary pads or facilitate access to affordable reusable pads.

No girl or woman should be held back by a period.