Key insights from a session organized by Days for Girls, WASH United, MIET Africa in collaboration with the Global Menstrual Collective, on June 29, 2021, as part of the Self-Care Learning and Discovery Series hosted by the Self-Care Trailblazer Group and the White Ribbon Alliance.
Making the connection between Menstrual Health and Self-Care
Menstrual health is an ongoing self-care practice that menstruators enact throughout their reproductive lifetime. This concerns 300 million people on any given day. For individual menstruators, we can easily imagine the self-care practices carried out for 3-6 days, every month, during the menstrual phase (e.g. managing blood flow, pain, discomfort, etc). In addition, menstruators also practice self-care during other phases of the cycle, where changes in hormone levels can impact metabolism, appetite, mood, and even their ability to focus. This is particularly true for those with menstrual conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, or others.
The secretive or taboo nature of menstruation, as well as cultural and environmental restrictions, all directly impact the ability of menstruators to manage their periods and means that self-care is often done in secret, private spaces. In addition, when there is limited access to accurate education there is a risk that women and girls may perform harmful menstrual practices and make uninformed decisions about their menstrual care.
“Self-care allows people to become agents of their own health, leading to improved outcomes, especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health where stigma may prevent them from seeking care.”
Self-Care: Self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.
Menstrual Health: Menstrual health (MH) is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle.
Supportive environments for self-care and menstrual health and hygiene
Removing barriers and limitations that surround menstrual health & hygiene helps create supportive self-care environments in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.
The session looked at four interlinked perspectives of menstrual related self-care: education, physical well-being, mental well-being and products.
Above all, it is critical to eliminate stigmas and taboos altogether so that women and girls are empowered to practice menstruation related self-care openly, without fear of embarrassment, shame, or negative repercussions. This was seen during the course of the session, where many participants shared their own MH experiences in the break-out and chat which created an open and welcoming environment for them to feel comfortable to contribute.
- Days for Girls, MIET Africa, WASH United, in collaboration with the Global Menstrual Collective
- Moderator: Ina Jurga, International Coordinator, Menstrual Hygiene Day, WASH United, Germany
- Laura Amaya, Associate Partner, Dalberg, United Kingdom
- Dr. Renjini Devaki, PhD, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, MIET AFRICA, South Africa and Mags Beksinska, Deputy Executive Director, MatCH Research Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa (Mags will be presenting).
- Barghavi Govindarajan, Co-founder, Hey Period.
- Melanie Wilkinson, Consultant, UNICEF South Africa
- Naana Abena Afadi, Program Manager, Days for Girls Ghana, Ghana