Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

How a Menstruation-themed Social Media Campaign Spurred a Movement for a Global Awareness Day. Period.

July 22, 2013

Did you hear about May MENSTRAVAGANZA? It was truly menstravagant. It was the first-ever social media campaign of its kind: a 28-day awareness cycle initiated by Berlin-based social impact organization, WASH United, to break the silence around menstruation and menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Menstruation: It happens.

Menstruation is a normal human process. Nevertheless, it is still treated as a taboo in countless cultures and societies across the globe. A profound silence around the topic combined with a lack of access to information results in girls and women possessing very little understanding of their own bodies. Many are left to manage their periods in an unsafe manner, using old rags, straw, leaves or other unhygienic and ineffective materials. The problem is exacerbated by limited access to hygienic products, safe and private sanitation facilities, consistent supplies of water for personal hygiene, and adequate disposal options.

Facing health problems and cultural taboos surrounding their periods, women and girls become isolated from family, school, and their communities. They miss school and productive workdays, thereby falling behind their male counterparts.

Some facts and figures:

  • A 2012 UNICEF study across six rural districts in Sierra Leone schools revealed that up to 21.3% of students report missing school during their menstrual periods.
  • 48% of girls in Iran, 10% in India, and 7% in Afghanistan believe that menstruation is a disease, shows a 2013 WaterAid study
  • In Bangladeshi garment factories where 80% of factory workers are women, a majority use rags from the factory floor for menstrual cloths. Infections are common, leading to 73% of women missing work for an average of 6 unpaid days per month, as indicated in a 2013 report by WSSCC by HERproject.

Other stories and experiences just like these are happening all over the world.

WASH United’s Approach: May #MENSTRAVAGANZA

If periods are such a normal and natural occurrence, why are people so afraid to talk about them or the specific needs related to managing them? We at WASH United are 100% committed to using to our expertise in innovative campaigning, positive communication and network building to bring this neglected issue into the spotlight. We want to create a world in which every woman and girl can manage her menstruation in a hygienic way – in privacy, safety and with dignity – at home, at school and at the workplace. We need to break the silence and start talking about it publically. What to do? We went to Facebook and Twitter to engage in conversation and share our vision.

Using ‘Misses with Moustaches’ as spokesladies for the May #MENSTRAVAGANZA campaign, the idea was that, if women can have moustaches, can’t we all talk about menstruation? Throughout the campaign, questions raised by the ‘Misses in Moustaches’ included:

The diversity of content ranged from book recommendations (“Flow” and “The Red Tent”) to a rap about organic tampons to addressing the unnoticed challenges that girls with disabilities face in managing their periods. By the end of the campaign, we attracted more than 800 new Facebook fans and over 250 new followers on Twitter. For a topic so unmentionable, May #MENSTRAVAGANZA took the social media world by storm!

Let’s make the 28th of May Menstrual Hygiene Day. PERIOD.

To harvest the momentum from the campaign and create a wider platform for MHM advocacy, WASH United has initiated a movement to make the 28th of May in 2014 – and beyond – a globally recognized Menstrual Hygiene Day. (#MHDAY)

This day would serve as a platform to create awareness for individuals, organisations and the media. It would expose the challenges and hardships many women and girls face during their menstruation and highlight the positive and innovative solutions being taken to address these challenges. Menstrual Hygiene Day will be an excellent opportunity to engage in policy dialogue and actively advocate for the integration of MHM into global and national policies, programs and projects. The global recognition of their rights will empower women and girls, and is crucial to ensure all women and girls are able to live a healthy life in dignity and prosperity.

How to Get Involved

Menstrual Hygiene Day has already garnered the support of over 25 different international and local partner organizations. If you are working on issues related to MHM or are looking to get involved with Menstrual Hygiene Day, get in touch with our Social Media Strategist, Danielle Keiser.

 
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