A continuously updated document with news articles, blog posts and information from our partners related to menstruation, hygiene and Coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 / COVID-19 can  be found under the link. Below are some selected articles and resources. The views expressed and all recommendations are of the authors, not of the MH Day Secretariat.

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Date Posted: March 18, 2020 https://www.psi.org/2020/03/covid-19-has-made-menstrual-health-more-urgent-than-ever/

 

By Sandy Garçon, Senior Advocacy Manager, PSI

In case you missed it, the novel coronavirus has officially changed the way human beings behave. COVID-19 has spurred travel restrictions, self-isolation and self-quarantine, working from home—for those with both means and opportunity—and even people stockpiling toilet paper to the point where they probably won’t need to buy it for the next decade.

What psychologists tell us about #toiletpapergate is that hoarding bathroom necessities is a normal reaction to a situation that seems out of our control. As Mary Alvord, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine, puts it “we all eat, and we all sleep and we all poop. It’s a basic need to take care of ourselves.”

This also brings to mind another essential need that we too often ignore, and in worse cases stigmatize—menstruation.

You’re probably thinking, “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We have more pressing concerns.” Just as we all “eat,” “sleep,” and “poop,” people will continue to menstruate during this outbreak and well after we (hopefully) pass this pandemic.

There is no remote option.

Menstruation is a normal biological process experienced by half of the world’s population for a significant part of their lives, including women, girls, trans, nonbinary, intersex, and agender people who menstruate.

It’s not just something our mothers, sisters and partners deal with once a month—and if my vote counts for anything, I say we banish the term “time of the month” altogether. It is at the very core of sexual and reproductive health and rights for people who menstruate.

Millions of people who menstruate struggle to manage their monthly menstruation safely, comfortably and with dignity. Menstruating girls and women face inadequate access to toilets and water and may lack the most basic materials needed for managing blood flow, such as menstrual products, underwear and soap. Privacy is often scarce, and when toilets are available, they often lack locks, functioning doors, lighting and separation by gender. Also, strong menstrual taboos may restrict the movements and behaviors of adolescent girls and women, hindering their ability to attend school, work, or participate in daily life.

And we know that lack of proper menstrual health management may lead to greater risks of infections, discomfort, and negative impacts on mental wellbeing.

It’s not just a women’s and girls’ issue.

In the same way that pandemics affect all us, menstruation is part of the reality for women, girls and transgender men the world over. Taboos associated with menstruation, combined with an overall culture of silence around the topic, limit the ability of people who menstruate to fully and equally participate in society, undermining their overall status and self-esteem as well as the development of families and communities. Improved menstrual health and hygiene will not only benefit those who menstruate, but entire societies across generations.

With current measures to contain COVID-19 potentially extending into the summer, product availability could be affected by store closures and stock-outs. Sadly, this is already a reality for women and girls living in poor and marginalized communities, emergency and humanitarian contexts, incarceration facilities, have special needs or disabilities and/or facing other barriers.

Where do we go from here?

So, when the current storm passes, will we fall back into old habits of ignoring dire issues that are right in front of us? Or will we do what is necessary to support those who are most marginalized and lack access to their most basic needs?

Gender equality will not be achieved unless menstrual health is addressed by all relevant sectors through appropriate policies, programming and funding. The sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) community of practice should make menstrual health an integral part of SRHR across the spectrum of information sharing, awareness raising, behavior change, service delivery, product distribution, outreach, advocacy, etc., and design and fund programs accordingly. Programs should be designed with and for (young) people who menstruate. In return, menstrual health can help strengthen and provide new insights for SRHR programming.

The WASH community of practice should tap into creative new solutions to ensure accessible and affordable menstrual products, appropriate water and sanitation facilities for girls and women, and comprehensive MH education including SRHR.

Addressing menstrual health effectively requires a multi-tiered strategy that combines cross-sectoral programming, research and advocacy. Include specific budget lines for menstrual health in the initiatives you fund in addition to mainstreaming it in the cross-cutting plans. Funding is needed not only to support and scale programming but also to solidify the research and evidence base.

Only then, will we be on the road to fulfilling the promise of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and other commitments to millions of women, girls and all people who menstruate.

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On 3/17/20 at 1:05 PM EDT Newsweek https://www.newsweek.com/periods-dont-stop-pandemics-opinion-1492753

As the coronavirus crisscrosses the world—wreaking havoc on public health and the global economy and bringing the rhythm of daily life to a screeching halt—governments are rightly focused on what it will take to protect the most vulnerable populations.

One potential blind spot: How seemingly neutral interventions overlook and even undermine women’s essential needs. As we now scramble to enforce extreme adjustments to ensure our collective health, from curfews to closures, it is women who absorb the most collateral harm—who are least likely to weather an uncertain economy and most likely to bear the burden of caring for others, children and the elderly alike. It is not an understatement to say that this pandemic will have a grave impact on the women of America.

This is doubly true for the taboo topic of menstruation. Neglecting those who menstruate is always an anathema to good public policy—and exponentially so in this time of crisis. For example, around the world, women make up a majority of health care workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 80 percent of health care workers in America are women.

A few weeks ago, when hospitalizations mushroomed in China’s Hubei province, female medical providers there spoke out about the challenge of working long shifts in a full-body protective jumpsuit while managing their periods. Complaints to officials about the dearth of menstrual products and infrequent bathroom breaks were met with derision; some chided the women that they “lacked the spirit of devotion.” Further outrage ensued when a hospital in Shanghai announced it would donate hormonal birth control pills to suppress menstruation—as its leaders put it, to “postpone female team members’ ‘unspeakable’ special periods.” Finally, a viral social media post spurred a much-needed supply of donated pads, tampons, period underwear and even adult diapers.

Periods should not be an afterthought—or worse, cause for punishment or deprivation of bodily integrity. At a minimum, governments must ensure that those doing the crucial work on the frontlines have access to basic needs.

As we consider what emergency relief looks like across the general population, as well, menstruation similarly must be part of the equation. What does this look like in practice?

First, wherever women and girls are, so too must there be menstrual products. As a matter of policy, nearly two dozen U.S. states have addressed this by mandating their inclusion in public facilities, including schools, shelters and corrections. Under the leadership of U.S. Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat of New York, the rules guiding FEMA-funded homeless assistance grants enable shelters to use emergency allowances to purchase menstrual products. In the states and federally, all public facilities should provide menstrual products freely—plain and simple.

Until policy catches up to the need, here and now citizens should integrate the same into charitable donation drives. In addition to delivering non-perishable food staples—and, as of late, nearly impossible-to-access items like hand sanitizer and packs of toilet paper—menstrual products are a must in every drop-off.

Dana Marlowe, founder of the national service organization I Support the Girls, told me her inbox has been flooded with requests for tampons and pads from domestic violence shelters, in particular—more than 50 email inquiries in the past week alone. The need will likely swell, according to experts who predict the rates and severity of domestic abuse will surge under current conditions, with the potent combination of isolation and “social distancing,” along with accompanying anxiety and financial stress. (In parts of China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to police nearly tripled in February after the mass quarantines of January.)

Tax relief is another way to elevate menstruation and address related financial burdens. Several key reforms are on the table. Federally, the House passed a bill to provide tax credits to support essential policies, including paid sick leave and family and medical leave. In the states, there’s an easy immediate priority, too: axing the so-called “tampon tax” and requiring that menstrual products be sales tax-exempt. The American Medical Association rightly deems this a “regressive penalty” directed at women, who not only earn less than male counterparts but are over-represented in low-wage work and care-giving roles, disparities further heightened by the pandemic. The advocacy group Tax Free. Period. leads the fight to ensure the remaining 31 states that still tax menstrual products cease this discriminatory practice. In Washington state, an epicenter for COVID-19 cases, the legislature passed a tampon tax exemption bill just last week. Governor Inslee should sign right away and lead the nation by example.

There are myriad ways, some quiet but insidious, that the global pandemic poses particular harm for women. Let’s be sure that menstruation isn’t one of them.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is vice president and women and democracy fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, as well as author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.​​​​​​​​​

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Here are some facts, resources, and science-backed tips on how to handle COVID-19 as someone who menstruates

The global epidemic of COVID-19 is impacting the health and personal decision-making of people across the globe.

 While most households are stocking up on non-perishable foods, people who menstruate have other concerns beyond toilet paper and produce.

How many period supplies should I have on hand?

Right now, National Health Protection Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) simply state the COVID-19 outbreak “could last a long time.” While practicing social distancing, trips out of the house for period products might not be ideal. Harvard Health advises everyone to plan on quarantining at home by having “extra supplies on hand.”

 What exactly is “extra”? Most people who menstruate usually keep about a month’s supply of period products on hand. Two months’ worth of period supplies might be a reasonable stash to keep on hand during this outbreak. Remember that while you need to have access to the supplies you need, so do others around you. Buying out a whole store’s worth of tampons means someone else won’t have any, so aim to be conscientious of the needs of others.

 This outbreak is a good time to consider a reusable menstrual blood collector like a cup, washable pads, or absorbent underwear. (Bonus—social distancing means you might have some time to experiment to find the one that works best for you.) Or, if you’ve ever wanted to try freebleeding, now’s the time to experiment without any social stigma.

 While you are practicing vigilant hand washing and sanitizing around the house (don’t forget door knobs and cabinet knobs) due to COVID-19, practice the same type of hygiene care with your period products. Boil anything made of silicon after use. Wash reusable pads and underwear with soap in hot water. Wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds before and after you change your blood collection product.

 When using disposable period products like pads or tampons, wrap the used product in the wrapper of the new product so that any menstrual blood is not exposed. Toss it in the trash bin (not the toilet).

 What should I do if I can’t get period supplies?

As of today, some manufacturers of period supplies report their supply chains are still producing and delivering at normal speed. It’s unlikely but not impossible that if people become more panicked, tampons and pads might suddenly disappear from the shelves.

 When there is no other option, we can look to what people who menstruate do with limited resources. When menstrual products aren’t available, many people use a small cloth or tissue paper (1). A sock may be thin enough to be worn comfortably in underwear. Everyone who menstruates has had to improvise at some point!

 What should I do if I can’t get contraception or other medication?

 In Italy, where the virus has hit especially hard, all “non-essential” businesses were ordered to close. Pharmacies and grocers remain open, providing access to prescriptions for contraceptives and other medications. This is good news. It’s likely that if the outbreak worsens where you live, pharmacies will also still remain open.

 Yet, other barriers like money or travel might prevent people from accessing prescription contraceptives.

 If for any reason you can’t access your hormonal contraception, use a condom when you have penetrative sex. External/male condoms are 98% effective at preventing unintended pregnancy when always used correctly (2). If it’s been a while since you’ve used a condom, watch a video refresher while you have some time. Male condoms are usually available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Sponges and spermicides also offer some protection against pregnancy, and are available over the counter, but are less effective than condoms (2).

 You can also call your provider to see if it’s possible to get a 60 or 90 day refill of your contraceptive.

 What should I do if I can’t access my regular doctor?

 If you need to talk to a healthcare provider for a reproductive or mental health reason, first call your usual provider. They may be set up to see you virtually or be able to call you in a prescription or refill.

 If you don’t have a regular provider, telemedicine practitioners are available via smartphone or computer. In the U.S., Doctor on Demand and Amwell both offer access to physical and mental health practitioners. In Sweden, France, the UK, Germany, and Norway, Kry offers access to healthcare providers for a fee. The French government recently relaxed telemedicine rules in response to COVID-19, making it easier for people to get access to a provider through a platform called Doctolib. Telemedicine in Brazil is available through Brasil Temedicina.

Many European public health systems are providing access to healthcare providers online or via phone during this outbreak. Call your local health service to get more information. If you have private insurance, they may also have a hotline or app for telemedicine. Call them to find out more.

 If you need access to a medication that is considered a controlled substance (like some pain medicines for endometriosis or some anti-anxiety medications), virtual providers might not be able to prescribe it. In this case, contact the last provider who prescribed you this medication.

 When filling a new or existing prescription, ask your doctor for a 60 or 90 day prescription.

 You’ve probably heard this on the news, but if you have a fever or any other symptom of COVID-19 and are doing okay, the best course of action is to stay at home. If you need advice, call your healthcare provider or arrange a virtual visit. Hospital visits should be reserved for the very ill.

Self-care and menstruation during the coronavirus outbreak

Dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime viral outbreak, plus being isolated at home is leaving a lot of people feeling down. If you’re feeling anxious and uncertain, know that your feelings are totally normal and valid.

Stress can impact both mental and physical health. Some folks with underlying anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are feeling triggered right now. Likewise, stress may influence cycle length, vaginal bleeding patterns, painful periods, and premenstrual symptoms (3). It’s not likely that this outbreak will impact your cycle, but you can monitor any changes your body might go through by tracking them in Clue. Keep in mind that stress is most likely to be the culprit of any changes to your cycle, not the Coronavirus.

 Self-isolation during COVID-19 means some people may be isolated with an abuser, a potentially dangerous situation. If you are quarantined with an abuser, reach out to your local domestic violence agency. Emerging evidence suggests there is an increased risk for domestic violence during this stressful time (4).

 If you’re feeling mentally impacted by the Coronavirus news, the best thing to do is to focus on yourself and practice some self care. This can look different for everyone, but some things we suggest are:

  • Continue to regularly take your prescriptions and/or supplements

  • It might be hard to access your normal healthy foods during social isolation. Still, try not to eat too many junk foods.

  • Meditate or journal (5)

  • Revisit an old hobby or crafting

  • Fix some things around the house

  • Find an indoor workout routine that you like (6)

  • Maintain your usual sleep schedule (7)

  • Enjoy hot showers and baths if you can (8)

  • Monitor your media intake (9)

  Instead of staying glued to the latest COVID-19 updates, allow yourself to check the news at certain times of day. Try to fit some stretching and deep breathing into each day (10). If you live with partners, roommates, or family, take this time to connect and nurture your relationships.  Check in with friends and neighbors over phone or video—your virtual companionship might help someone cope and help you feel connected (11).

 And remember–everyone all over the globe is experiencing the same pandemic at the same time. We want to show up for you not only as a company, but as fellow human beings. If you are looking for support or resources, know that the Clue team is here for you. Reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or via support@helloclue.com.

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17 March 2020 https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/period-poverty-coronavirus-homeless-shelters/

As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, panicked shoppers in the United States are clearing grocery store shelves of tampons and pads. People who did not worry about access to period products before the pandemic hit are now considering a reality in which the basic need will no longer be easily accessible. 

Homeless and domestic violence shelters are in desperate need of supplies for the most vulnerable, according to menstrual equity organization I Support The Girls.

I Support The Girls distributes bras and period products to people experiencing homelessness in the US and across the globe. Now, they are working tirelessly to ensure that people affected by the coronavirus can manage their periods. 

The Salvation Army of the National Capital Area in Washington, DC picked up tens of thousands of pads and tampons from the organization on Monday, according to Dana Marlowe, the founder of I Support the Girls.

“Periods don’t stop for pandemics,” Marlowe told Global Citizen. “In times of disasters, let alone pandemics, it’s easy to overlook basic essentials for people around dignity.”

As shelters are stocking up on bars of soap, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper, they should also be prepared to provide period products, Marlowe said.

I Support The Girls Packing Period Products.JPEGChrissy packing up period products at the I Support The Girls warehouse in Maryland.

The organization distributed 5,000 pads and tampons to Nashville tornado victims earlier this month and has served 550,000 girls and women since it was founded in 2015.

One worker is distributing period products by herself in the I Support The Girls Maryland warehouse to practice “social distancing” and help stop the spread of the virus. The organization is taking extreme caution to pack supplies safely, Marlowe said.

The nonprofit has seen an uptick in requests for period products from agencies and individuals in March, according to Marlowe.

“I was hoping I could get some menstrual products for myself and my 15-year-old daughter,” one parent said in an email to the organization. “I can travel a little. Anything would definitely be of assistance.” 

With schools shut down in 85 countries and companies telecommuting around the globe, people who rely on getting free period products at work or in schools are at an even bigger disadvantage. 

Periods don’t stop for pandemics.🩸We have products to send to the 50+ organizations requesting menstrual products during this Coronavirus quarantine. We need your help. Donate $50 to cover shipping costs of maxipads to a small shelter tomorrow. Donate: http://bit.ly/CovidRelief 

In addition to disposable tampons and pads, I Support The Girls also distributes reusable pads and menstrual cups, which offer a more sustainable and economical option. But during times of crisis, educating the public and offering support to people who are trying new methods is not always feasible, Marlowe said.

I Support The Girls is encouraging those who can afford to support people who menstruate in need to donate money to cover the organization’s shipping costs to send period products to small shelters. 

“We are going to see an increase in the general population of people who have periods realize what those in need have been going through for a very long time,” Marlowe said.

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https://feminisminindia.com/2020/03/31/inaccessibility-menstrual-hygiene-times-covid-19/ 31.03.2020 Posted by Abira Das

The road to the period revolution is lined with pads and tampons. 

On March 24th 2020, the BJP-led Indian Government had brought a nationwide lockdown in a country of 133.3 crores of people at the face of COVID-19 pandemic. This led to a shutdown of several essential goods manufacturing companies causing a major crisis and havoc across the nation, making women and trans-men from different class and intersections the biggest victims of this nationwide shutdown of essential goods. Some major commodities covered under the Essential Commodity Act include food items like edible oil and seeds, vanaspati, pulses, rice, sugarcane and its products; petroleum and petroleum products; jute and textile etc, while the welfare of women and trans-men who constitute 48% of the Indian population, have absolutely evaded the minds of our ministers.

While thousands of women do not have rudimentary access to sanitary napkins, tampons, clean water and several other hygiene products continue to be demarcated by the Indian Government as non-essential goods, leading to supply issues across the country into in times of a global pandemic. Online multinational companies like Amazon and BigBasket and others are not being able to get access to these products due to the obscurity of the entire situation, making it even more difficult for women and trans-men with disabilities from lower class, caste and poor economic backgrounds to get access to these products.

However, the Telengana and Karnataka government have enlisted items such as sanitary napkins, soap and other hygienic products as essential goods, the obscurity of the situation can be further demystified if the Ministry of Consumer Affairs or the Ministry of Health or the Prime Minister’s office can provide an extended list of essential goods for the easy accessibility of the Indian women and trans-men.

The Telengana and Karnataka government have enlisted items such as sanitary napkins, soap and other hygienic products as essential goods, the obscurity of the situation can be further demystified if the Ministry of Consumer Affairs or the Ministry of Health or the Prime Minister’s office can provide an extended list of essential goods for the easy accessibility of the Indian women and trans-men.

National Family Health Survey 2018 estimates that of the 336 million menstruating women in India about 121 million (roughly 42 percent) women are using sanitary napkins, locally or commercially produced. Nationwide stunting of the production of sanitary napkins will affect the hygienic conditions of these women, making them vulnerable to various diseases and menstrual infections. The issue can increase a woman’s chances of contracting cervical cancer, Reproductive Tract Infections, Hepatitis B infection, various types of yeast infections and Urinary Tract Infection, further pushing women and trans-men from marginalised intersections who mostly do not have financial access to healthcare and health insurances to the tenebrous pit of death.

(…….)

In contrast to the government led movement- “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Abhiyaan”, the BJP cabinet minister- Smriti Irani has repudiated the Sabrimala Temple case by saying, “ But just plain common sense; would you take sanitary napkins steeped in menstrual blood and walk into a friend’s home? You will not. And do you think that it is respectful to do the same when you walk into the house of God? So that is the difference.

While the institutionalised misogyny in the government continue to perpetuate taboo against menstruation, it had led to millions of young girls to drop out of school each year and throwing them into the dark, harrowing pit of menstrual infections, diseases and innocent deaths.

The road to the period revolution is indeed lined with pads and tampons. When they’re available, that is. 


Featured Image Source: LiveMint

Abira Das is a feminist activist, journalist and writer from Kolkata. She had previously worked for The Telegraph In Schools and won awards for Best Interviews and Best Cover Stories. She has interviewed numerous politicians and authors ranging from Shashi Tharoor to Markus  Zusak. She is currently studying in grade 11, and loves to write on vocal issues such as mental health, feminism and politics. You can find her on Facebook.

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