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Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020: Periods don’t stop for pandemics

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Periods take centre-stage, since it’s Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 tomorrow. May 28 marks this annual day of awareness on MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management), instituted in the year 2014 by German nonprofit WASH United. Let’s talk #PeriodsInPandemics because #ItsTimeForAction!

Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020

On Menstrual Hygiene Day last year, people around the world organised 726 on-the-ground events in 74 countries. On Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020, people can’t come together in person to publicly challenge the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation.
Here’s what you can do from home #MHDAY2020:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAntNSkJuF9/

Being able to manage menstruation hygienically, with confidence and dignity is critical for women’s health. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, more than 500 million women worldwide did not have what they needed to manage their periods, according to data by FSG (a social change organization). The current pandemic highlights and further exacerbates the menstruation-related challenges many women and girls face around the world.

Period problems during the pandemic

1. Disrupted access to information about menstruation 

Schools, community centres and other places where rural women and girls can typically access critical information about menstruation are closed right now. Routine health services are reduced. Women and girls typically have less access to digital information than men hampering their ability to seek information on menstruation through digital channels during lockdown.

2. Persisting period stigma and taboos 

Lockdowns intensify the impact of household level taboos and stigmas on women and girls and make it more difficult to manage menstruation, without shame and discomfort in often confined spaces.

3. Disrupted access to products

Many subsidised supply schemes, e.g. free distribution of menstrual products in schools, have been suspended. The economic impact of COVID-19 forces many women and girls to prioritise other basic needs over safe menstrual products. Disrupted supply chains drive prices up, making menstrual products unaffordable for even more women and girls.

4. Lack of access to WASH infrastructure

Millions of women and girls lack access to water, sanitation and handwashing (WASH) facilities to wash themselves, change and dispose of menstrual materials safely and comfortably. Poor WASH (acronym that stands for “water, sanitation and hygiene) infrastructure in healthcare facilities means female health workers and patients can’t manage their menstruation adequately in these locations.
Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 campaign video: 

https://youtu.be/rrzXp6nwZU0

MHM Solutions During COVID-19

Periods don’t stop for pandemics. This day is an important reminder that it’s critical to include menstrual health and hygiene in COVID-19 emergency response interventions and policies. This must be done across all sectors concerned, including health, education, SRHR (sexual and reproductive health rights), WASH and gender.
The government and CSR arms of private companies should continue efforts to ensure access to menstrual products and safe water, soap and period-friendly sanitation facilities at home and in health centres. This includes designating menstrual products as essential commodities to minimise barriers to manufacturing and supply. 
Wherever possible, corporates should sustain on-going CSR interventions to tackle period stigma and provide access to information about menstruation. They should explore alternatives to interpersonal communication, such as online, radio, mobile phone and messaging services. Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 should give the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare impetus to provide information about homemade alternatives for those who cannot access menstrual products.

MHM after the pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis will eventually pass. Once the pandemic is over, it is time for urgent action to address the ongoing global crisis in MHM. It is possible to create a world in which no one is held back because of their periods. To make this happen, all relevant actors – governments, UN agencies, NGOs, the corporate sector, philanthropy – must significantly step up action and investment in menstrual health and hygiene once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.