“I want girls my age to know everything about menstrual hygiene.”
Seventeen-year old Tina Akhter is an active member of a group that regularly meets to discuss hygiene issues in her community in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“My period started when I was 12 years old and I had no information about menstruation until I experienced it for the first time. I was told to use an old cloth and advised not to leave the house during my period. I also had restrictions on certain kinds of food. It was like this until I got in touch with the adolescent girls’ group.”
Educating women and girls and ending the period stigma
Menstruation and menstrual hygiene continue to be met with silence and neglect in many parts of the world. In Bangladesh, the situation is no different. This has a negative impact on the dignity and well-being of women and girls, and also has a wider social and economic impact.
With the support of UNICEF, WSUP has been implementing a project on menstrual hygiene in the city of Dhaka. It was through this project that Tina met community organiser, Elija who was conducting menstrual management sessions in the community. “By participating in these sessions, I understood that menstruation is a natural thing in every woman’s life. It’s not an illness or disease. Elija told us how to manage our periods with clean napkins and pads, and how to safely dispose them.”
Tina now wants to raise awareness and has already shared what she has learnt with her mother, cousins and friends.
Hasina, Tina’s mother (pictured on top) said, “Earlier I used to think it’s not right to talk about menstruation. But now, I have learnt from my daughter. I do not stop her from going out anymore and I am trying to give her nutritious food as often as I can afford”.
According to Elija, “Tina participates in every session and later builds awareness among the community girls, which has created an enormous positive impact in the community.”
Ensuring access to sanitation facilities
Lack of hygienic and female-friendly toilets, also makes it hard for women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene needs, forcing them to miss school and limiting their opportunities to realize their full potential.
Senior high school student, Sheila Safowaa, until recently never had a toilet in her house and relied on a dilapidated community toilet in her community in Petrensa in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
“The toilet is far away from my home and it smells very bad. It is not clean, and there is no water to wash my hands. It is a regular occurrence to contract an infection from using the toilet.”
She especially dreads making the journey to the public toilet during her menstrual periods. “This is always a difficult time for me.”
Thanks to support from The One Foundation, WSUP is constructing a hygienic 20-seater public toilet with mechanised boreholes, handwashing facilities and rainwater harvesting systems in 3 communities including Petrensa. In addition, households and compounds are being encouraged to construct toilets in their homes.
Sheila’s father responded to the campaign and engaged a project supported artisan to construct a toilet for their house.
Sheila expresses her delight of having a toilet at home, “I don’t have to walk a long way to use the toilet. It is our toilet, so we always keep it clean. There is a bucket of water in front of the toilet and I wash my hands every time I use the toilet. It has given me peace of mind.”
Every woman and girl has the right to privacy, safety and to live with dignity. Access to decent sanitation facilities that takes into account their needs is fundamental for good menstrual hygiene management.