This May 28th, more than 145 organizations from all over the world are coming together to celebrate the world’s first Menstrual Hygiene Day and help break the silence around menstrual hygiene management (MHM). As initiators of the day, we couldn't be more excited. But how did this happen? Where did Menstrual Hygiene Day come from?
The need for an open advocacy platform for MHM
In May 2013, WASH United carried out its first menstrual hygiene advocacy campaign, a riveting 28-day social media campaign aptly titled May MENSTRAVAGANZA, which used positive and inspiring communication to present one of the most neglected WASH issues in a different light. Perhaps you remember…?
After receiving positive feedback on the campaign, it became clear to us that there was a need for an open advocacy platform around MHM, one that would bring together organizations from the diverse sectors working in the area, including WASH, education, gender and reproductive health. We started brainstorming ideas and a light bulb went on in the heads of Thorsten our CEO and Ina, Head of WASH in Schools: what if we were to establish a global Menstrual Hygiene Day? A global awareness day dedicated exclusively to putting the spotlight on menstrual hygiene! We decided to float the idea by some of our trusted MHM friends, including WASH Advocates, Girls’ Globe and Ruby Cup, to see if it would resonate with their work. They loved it. Menstrual Hygiene Day was born.
By July 2013, we had 25 partners, giving us a good sign that we were moving in the right direction. However, it was really over the last few months that the word of Menstrual Hygiene Day spread like wildfire. Every day we would open our inboxes to get new partner requests from across the world, asking how they could get involved and help break the silence. From menstrual educational organizations in Mexico and a menstrual cup company in Sweden, to a healthcare company in India and WASH experts in Australia, the MH Day partner coalition has ballooned to encompass international and grassroots NGOs, social businesses, research institutions, groups and everyone in between.
With just one day before the big day, we have an incredible 145 partners on board, all working towards the same goal: promoting a world where women and girls can manage their menstruation hygienically, in privacy with safety and dignity.
Here are a few of the many activities and events that will be happening this May 28:
- In Kathmandu, Nepal, in collaboration with over 25 NGOs and the government of Nepal, the Nepal Fertility Care Center has coordinated a 3-day intervention program that includes a ‘Menstrual Hour’ from 10-11AM on May 28th in which almost 4,000 schools and 74 radio stations will start the conversation about menstruation.
- In the United States, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research has been working closely with Congress member Carolyn Maloney (D), New York, to reintroduce the Danielson Act into US Congress on Menstrual Hygiene Day. The Danielson Act would establish a program of research regarding the risks posed by the presence of dioxin, synthetic fibers, and other additives in feminine hygiene products, and establish a program for the collection and analysis of data on toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
- In the politically influential county of Tharaki Nithi outside Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, WASH United’s Kenya office and 28 partner organizations will be teaming up with the county government for a festival expected to draw in over 5,000 local students, teachers, and stakeholders. Hosted by Samuel Ragwa, the governor of Tharaka Nithi, and supported by the Ministry of Health, the festival will serve as a call-to-action of other county’s governments to break the silence surrounding menstruation and advocate for the necessary improvement of sanitation infrastructure and distribution of feminine hygiene products.
- In Berlin, there will be a ‘Breaking the Bloody Taboo’ exhibition. Gesine Schwan, our German MH Day ambassador, Germany’s first female presidential candidate and president of the Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance, will inaugurate a weeklong exhibition that features photo essays, performances and workshops on environmentally friendly feminine hygiene products, e.g., menstrual cups.
- In Jos, Nigeria, Inclusive Friends will host an interactive session to explore the barriers young girls with disabilities face with regard to MHM. With teachers, school board members and 150 disabled girls expected to attend, the event aims to provide information and resources to help the girls better manage this critical period of their lives.
- In Delhi, there will be a national-level event to create a collaborative platform though consultations and panel discussions with keynote speakers. Led by Azadi, PATH, WaterAid and WASH United’s India team, the event will bring together government officials, organizations, corporations, media and individuals to work toward making menstruation a non-issue in India.
In addition to these larger events, our dedicated MH Day partner coalition will also be organizing rallies, intimate trainings or screening the 25-minute film “Monthlies”, which launches on Menstrual Hygiene Day. Online, partners are writing blog posts, reaching out to local media and actively creating a social media buzz by using #MenstrualHygiene and #MenstruationMatters.
Building a movement for good menstrual hygiene for all women and girls
When we launched the initiative for MH Day in May 2013, we were hoping to bring together 40 partners in the first year. Now we have an amazing coalition of 145 extremely excited, passionate and committed partners working together to use this platform to break the taboo and start a conversation around MHM. We hope that many more partners will join us next year and help build an active movement that promotes good menstrual hygiene for all women and girls, everywhere.
To support Menstrual Hygiene Day, find out what May 28th events are happening near you! You can also share our infographic on social media, or join the conversation online using the hashtag #MenstruationMatters. And don’t forget to sign up for the MHM newsletter so you can continue to help break the silence around this neglected issue! Learn more at www.menstrualhygieneday.org.