You are here

Menstrual health

We are working to dispel myths and educate on hygiene best practices.
more below
Menstruation is a natural process, but women's health is often put at risk because of myths, restrictions and ignorance. We want to change this.

The issue explained

Today, like any other day, 800 million women and girls will be bleeding. But for many of these women, this natural process is still taboo. Many women and girls are cut off socially during this time, and it becomes very difficult to access water and sanitation, just when they need it the most. Many women and girls are unable to get hold of sanitary pads and struggle to dispose of them hygienically, which can affect their health. Using rags or unwashed cloths has been linked to reproductive tract infections, as well as secondary infertility, urinary tract infections and anemia.

Taboos

Across the world, taboos and rituals surround menstruation.

In Tanzania, some people believe that seeing a menstrual cloth will curse its owner and in Bangladesh, women bury their cloths to banish evil spirits.

In remote areas of Nepal the tradition of chhaupadi separates women and girls from society during their period as they’re seen as impure. They aren’t allowed to use public water sources, share food or socialize.

During chhaupadi, women and girls are not allowed to enter their homes and are forced to sleep in sheds or outbuildings. They have barely any contact with their family and little protection from the elements.

Impact on education

In schools where there is little water and sanitation, girls often miss school to collect water or because of frequent diarrhea.

But without a clean and private toilet, menstruating girls often miss school due to pain, or embarrassment. Over time, this can impact their education and after years of struggling without toilets, menstruation can push them to drop out altogether. 

Without somewhere clean and safe to manage periods, girls miss out on vital time in school, but just a few years of basic education results makes girls more likely to have smaller, healthier and better educated families.

Education about menstruation and simple, hygienic facilities to manage menstruation can help keep girls in school and help change their futures.
 

Students in a menstrual hygiene lesson, Pakistan.

© WaterAid/ Mustafah Abdulaziz

Our approach

We believe that women and girls have the right to manage menstruation safely. Without safe water and sanitation, women and girls' health suffers and they are subjected to the humiliation of trying to find somewhere private to change.

We work in some of the world’s poorest communities to change this. With help from our local partners, we address the taboos surrounding menstruation by teaching women, girls and their families how to manage their periods. We build separate toilets and taps for girls in schools and start hygiene clubs where girls can learn about their health and how to make their safe, reusable sanitary towels.