Ending Period Poverty and Empowering Women through Menstrual Hygiene Management

Imagine having to miss school every time you get your period simply because you don’t have access to menstrual pads. How many days of learning would you lose each year due to your period?

This predicament is the harsh reality that countless young girls face every day. An estimated 500 million girls worldwide experience what’s known as “period poverty” – a lack of access to menstrual products, education, and sanitation facilities. As a result, girls can miss up to 20% of the school year due to their period.

Despite its universality, this natural process has long been shrouded in stigma and taboo across the globe. Today, we know that menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is critical to the health and well-being of women and girls. Yet, in many parts of the world, access to menstrual hygiene products and facilities remains a challenge. This lack of access not only affects women’s health but also contributes to gender inequality by impeding their ability to participate fully in education, work, and social activities.

Empowering women and girls with knowledge about their bodies and providing them with the resources they need to manage menstruation safely and hygienically can be a catalyst for social and economic development. The WASH Foundation’s Keep a Girl in School MHM Program is dedicated to achieving just that.

The WASH Foundation's Menstrual Health Management Program

Established in Eastern Uganda in 2019, The WASH Foundation’s Keep a Girl in School MHM Program consists of two key components: menstrual health education and menstrual material production.

The first part of the program provides comprehensive menstrual hygiene education, covering fundamental aspects of menstruation and feminine hygiene. This includes crucial health education on the timing of periods, bodily changes, and safe methods for period management. Recognizing the pervasive stigma surrounding menstruation, the training emphasizes storytelling and destigmatization efforts, aiming to reassure girls that menstruation is a natural process and equipping them with the knowledge to manage it effectively. Additionally, the program incorporates breathing techniques and confidence-building exercises for girls to feel ready to overcome the barriers around menstruation and succeed in school and beyond.

The second aspect of the MHM program focuses on empowering women to make the products they need for themselves and their communities. The training teaches the technical skills needed to sew reusable menstrual pads (RMPs). RMPs are made from soft and absorbent materials that are designed to be washed and reused multiple times, reducing both waste and the financial burden of purchasing disposable products month after month.

The training equips participants with sewing machines and essential materials, enabling them to master the art of crafting reusable menstrual pads. Upon completion, these tools are then passed on to women who will continue the training, fostering a ripple effect of skill-sharing and empowerment. This practice allows women to generate income through pad production and tailoring and expands access to vital menstrual hygiene products within their communities.

What Does MHM Encompass?

MHM goes well beyond menstrual products. It includes access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities, and education about menstruation. Lack of affordability and accessibility of menstrual products and cultural stigma play a large role in perpetuating the cycle of what is known as period poverty.

In Uganda, where The WASH Foundation runs period education and empowerment programs for girls in school, women resort to using unhygienic materials like rags or leaves, which puts them at risk of infections. Additionally, the financial burden of purchasing commercial menstrual products can be prohibitive for many women and girls, especially in more rural communities. In Uganda, it is estimated that nearly 65% of girls and women are unable to purchase menstrual hygiene supplies. 

When women and girls are supported in managing their menstrual health, they can fully participate in all areas of their lives, contributing to a more equitable and inclusive society.

Join Us in Bringing Menstrual Health Management to All!

You can help empower women and girls around the world by supporting The WASH Foundation’s Keep a Girl in School MHM Program. With your support, we can continue to bridge the gap on MHM for young girls and women around the world. 

For only $25, you can help provide a girl with a year’s worth of menstrual pads to keep her in school. If you would like to support our program, donate today