“You are part of what I think we agree is quite an unprecedented moment. Take a moment to reflect that this is now a movement.  This is a movement which I hope is unstoppable!” – Sue Coates, Acting Executive Director, WSSCC

Opening Remarks and Key Note Presentation

In the opening remarks Åsa Anderson, Lead Policy Advisor on health and sexual and reproductive health and rights at SIDA and Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director WASH, programme section at UNICEF set the scene by acknowledging that menstrual hygiene management (MHM) has progressed quickly and that advancements have been made in recent years in policy and programmes. However, some of the key challenges to scaling MHM are related to coordination, capacity, financing and ensuring that no one is left behind.

“The potential to address more challenging issues such as gender equality, social norms, roles and responsibilities, men’s and boys’ engagement is something that we need to further explore … We [Sida] will advocate and push for more integration of menstrual hygiene management in our interventions.” Asa Anderson, Lead Policy Advisor, SIDA

“MHM is a human rights issue across the SDGs. At work, WASH facilities can enable women to have economic opportunities; in schools, education, support and facilities help girls continue their education and grow up with confidence; and more broadly, support to MHH contributes to gender equality and women being able to continue to participate in society” – Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director WASH, UNICEF

Download Kelly Ann Naylor’s Presentation


Working Groups

The working tables included seven different areas of MHM, which are critically interconnected: from the grassroots, where period taboos need to be addressed with men, young people and the most marginalized – including people with disabilities – to broad issues that require attention at scale (schools, workplace, and humanitarian settings), to the enabling environment by ensuring adequate policies and funding. 

MHM Policy and Advocacy

Facilitated by Ina Jurga, WASH United

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  • Policies should be accompanied by campaigns to shift societal norms to ensure better uptake of policies and programmes (examples from India)
  • Examples of countries working on MHM:  India (ODF plus), Ethiopia (disposal, product standards, taxes), Nigeria (civil society engagement), Indonesia and Zambia (MHM in the workplace)
  • A lead should be assigned within a coordination team comprised of different sectors. There can be  effective and quick implementation models, such as working through civil service
  • The real need is in rural areas, which the governments should address and NGOs should be able to hold them accountable (MH Day can be a mechanism for that)
  • The role of the private sector is important to take into consideration
MHM for People with Disabilities

Facilitated by Naomi Navoce, Pacific Dissability Forum, Megan Tucker, Unicef, Therese Mahon, WaterAid and Virginia Kamowa, WSSCC

  • The voices of girls and women with different disabilities must be listened to, as they know their issues better than everyone else – they are the experts. Therefore, organisations of persons with disabilities must be engaged in MHH programmes  
  • The conversation needs to be kept going to share and package MHH innovations for menstruators with different disabilities
  • Agencies to test the innovations beyond the current countries where they were developed
MHM in Humanitarian Settings

Facilitated by Ben Smith, UNICEF Jordan, Willeke Westra, AFRIPads, and Eveline Stoffel, PLAN International Germany

  • The importance of MHM should be elevated in the planning of early-phase emergency responses, as this will influence decision makers on key aspects such as appropriate WASH facilities
  • Cultural norms should be understood and consulted early on
  • Consultation with refugees is crucial in order to understand current MHM challenges and knowledge gaps (as an example pain and how to adress pain relief is an often overlooked topic when it comes to girls’ school attendance)
Investment Case

Facilitated by Gerda Larsson, The Case For Her

  • One challenge with MHH is that it’s not “owned” by WASH nor SRHR. This has led to a situation where none of them are strategically funding MH and the integration of MH in the global agenda and action plans is crucial. 
  • The four interventions that got most funding in the small group exercise were:
  1. Breaking taboos and stigmas
  2. Incentivise institutions to prioritise MH
  3. Mainstreaming MH in WASH, SRHR, Education and Human security work
  4. Build out female friendly and safe WASH infrastructure 
MHM in the Workplace

Facilitated by Aditi Krishna, IRIS Group International

  • Poor MHM in the workplace is couched within the larger issue of inadequate WASH in many work settings, which affects all individuals, but menstruating individuals especially
  • Workplaces have been historically conceptualised as spaces for men in which there has been a gender-blind approach towards considering the unique needs of women, for example design of facilities not meeting women’s needs. To address these misconceptions, greater awareness, education, and ownership is needed
  • It is important to rely on existing groups of people (e.g. collectives). It is also essential to engage women’s groups in addressing inadequate MHM
  • There is value in producing evidence that shows the potential benefits for businesses of investing in MHM programmes. However, that information needs to be carefully framed because the costs of inadequate MHM may be associated with the additional costs of hiring women, which may justify unfair hiring practices
Engaging Youth and Men in MHM

Facilitated by Daniel Karanja, Community Socioeconomic Development Initiative (COSEDI) 

  • Governments, the private sector and CSOs need to incentivise and prioritise MHM for young people to appreciate the need for breaking the silence, hence their involvement and inclusion in MHM matters
  • Content appropriate for young people that can be easily consumed on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram should be developed
  • The voices of young people should be recognised in policy formulation, that way, equity and inclusion targets can be tracked at implementation level
  • The involvement of men and boys must come out strongly through social media platforms
  • Young people can champion affordable and easily-accessible quality disposal innovations, including the research and development of environmentally-friendly MHM options

At the tail end of the session, participants took the pledge to support adolescent girls and women experience menstruation without fear and discomfort but with dignity and pride

MHM Education at Scale

Facilitated by Bisi Agrebemi, UNICEF

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  • All relevant stakeholders should work together and coordinate their approaches under the leadership of the Education Ministry
  • Incorporate MHH in school curriculum and policies
  • Engagement of young people in innovations for scaling up
  • Sustained advocacy and awareness creation on MHH financing for the scaling up of successful models
  • Documentation and evidence generation for scaling up
  • Increased private sector engagement in financing and scaling up of MHH
Panel Discussion

The panel discussion invited different stakeholder representatives from bilateral donor, multilateral, private sector, government and civil society to share the strategies they have implemented to drive action and investment. The panelists agreed on the need for change in the narrative through the help of national and local actions and commitments, as well as linking menstrual hygiene to internal agendas.

The World Bank, represented by Soma Gosh Moulik, Practice Manager of Global Solution Unit, conducted poverty diagnostics in 18 countries which highlighted the need to raise MHM as a human capital issue, to move it beyond being a sectoral issue: “That actually helped us in getting all our Vice Presidents to come together and say ‘It’s time to take action’. With a similarly strong strategy focus on gender, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) not only set a 50% gender impact target for all their projects, but also announced recently a 10 million Euro commitment to MHM via an impact bond for Ethiopia and maybe also Niger.  Menstual stigma is a key challenge, explained Allison Tummon Kamphuis, Global Program Leader, Gender Equality & Children’s Safe Drinking Water, Procter &Gamble, yet through partnerships and collaborations across many sectors they are reaching a significant number of girls and  family members and boys. By bringing together their marketing and communication  with the on-the-ground expertise they are able to make a commitment around educating 50 million girls in India by 2022.  This is supported by an enabling environment in India as a national MHM policy has already been issued, leading to the adoption of a state-level policy for the state of Jharkhan explained Ardhana Patnaik, Secretary,  Drinking Water and Sanitation Department of the Government of  Jharkhand. She shared that the state has been expanding the Swachh Bharat Mission campaign and issued a dedicated menstrual hygiene action plan. On 28th May they launched a campaign called ‘Break The Silence, Be Healthy’ to create awareness about and support for MHM across the entire society.  Thorsten Kiefer from WASH United shared how Menstrual Hygiene Day has moved beyond awareness creation, to strategically shift the theme for 2019 to #ItsTimeForAction to catalyse action and commitment for MHM. This engaged governments and funders, as well as NGO partners, who started moving from talking to driving change and are really pushing to do more.

Closing remarks

The closing remarks were provided by Sue Coates, Acting Executive Director at WSSCC, who made a call for more and better investment to sustain and scale MHM.

“We can’t do anything without the levels of investment that are now needed. We now really need to make a massive call for sustained investment over time.”  And she gave all participants a final, critical message to take home: “What can we do with those investments to make sure that the most excluded actually have a voice?”

More Information

Download Background Reading Materials

Session organisers: Columbia University, German WASH Network, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, The Case for Her, The IRC, UNICEF, USAID, WaterAid, WASH United, WSSCC

Session moderator: Thilo Panzerbieter, German WASH Network and Thérèse Mahon, WaterAid (panel)

Report:  Ina Jurga, WASH United

Photos: WSSCC, WASH United and others

Live streams: Opening speeches and closing remarks

Session: Tuesday 27th August, 16:00-17:30



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