A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle.
MH is intricately connected to women and girls’ ability to exercise their rights. Poor MH can negatively impact the extent to which women and girls enjoy certain rights including those to education, work, and health. Good MH enables women to exercise and enjoy human rights on the basis of equality. In 2021, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on menstrual hygiene management, human rights, and gender equality.
Thanks to its cross-cutting nature, investing in MH contributes to achieving multiple SDG goals: health and wellbeing, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, economic growth, and responsible consumption.
MH and SRHR are linked in various ways, all of which influence the experience and expression of sexuality, bodily autonomy, and health-related decision-making. These linkages span both biological and sociocultural experiences and occur throughout various life stages. Questions and concerns about menstruation consistently arise in sexual and reproductive health and rights programming and research—and it has taken us too long to take these concerns seriously.
Bleeding changes have long been cited as a concern or a reason for discontinuation of contraceptive methods and questions about menstruation and its connection to fertility, health, and contraceptives are common. Digital communication has provided an even greater opportunity for dialogue with users, tracking engagement, and soliciting feedback and questions from users—which frequently revolve around menstruation. Several youth-focused, user-centered design programs have evolved to incorporate MH as a critical component of adolescent and youth SRHR programmes.
Investing in menstrual health is a preventative investment in the health and wellbeing of women and girls. A growing population will always have MH-related needs. Currently 500 million women—or one in four women of reproductive age in the world—face constraints in their needs to manage their menstruation well. This number will only grow. Poor MH keeps women out of the work force, which can be detrimental to women, community development and countries’ gross domestic product.
Advocating for and providing guidance to meaningfully integrate MH into SRHR and WASH programming, policies, and funding.
Strengthening voice, choice, and agency through comprehensive and period positive MH information.
Advocating to give consumers a choice about which period products she wants to use.
Building the evidence base for the integration of MH into SRHR and WASH programming.
Increasing global technical expertise on menstrual health.
In 2018, with support from the Swedish Embassy, PSI-Zimbabwe developed a menstrual health (MH) program for adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aimed at reducing taboos and stigmas, improving knowledge about MH and its connection with sexual and reproductive health & rights (SRHR), and improving product access to support the overall wellbeing of AGYW in Zimbabwe.
Let’s Talk About It was a multi-media and multi-language campaign to address community stigma that perpetuates shame and prevents open discussions about MH and its link with sex and sexuality. The campaign portrayed girls and role models such as religious leaders, men, and boys to convey support for girls, ignite community discussion, and destigmatize menstruation. The campaign generated community discussion through radio spots on national and local radio; a live television show titled Unpacking the Period Silence; social media banners, videos, and live online shows featuring popular media personalities; and printed media including posters and brochures.
Peer mobilizers incorporated MH messaging and products into their work as an entry point for discussion about contraception and HIV, driving HIV and SRHR client flow across programmes. When the mobilizers were deployed with MH content, monthly uptake of modern contraception services increased by 150% from the previous month.
PSI-Zimbabwe worked with the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) to improve youth-friendly guidelines for MH and to provide recommendations about the possible scale-up of the menstrual cup and reusable pad provision in future Government and donor investments. They identified youth-friendly outreach providers and created safe, non-judgmental environments for AGYWs to have questions answered.
For more resources on MH, visit our partner, the Menstrual Health Hub.
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18-year-old Mirela hesitated as she peered around the clinic’s waiting room.
A comprehensive guide for why and how to invest in menstrual health and hygiene.
Menstruation is a normal and natural part of the reproductive system, and over half of the world’s population experiences menstruation throughout their lifetime.