As every year, on 28 May we mark Menstrual Hygiene Day!

Over the past few years we have managed to accelerate advocacy and action on menstrual hygiene all around the world, but much more action is needed!  This year campaign slogan #ItsTimeForAction is a call for collective action and a reminder that periods do not stop for pandemics.

This year, we are proud to feature some of the work carried out by our National Societies around the world, such as the research recently concluded by Vanuatu Red Cross in partnership with Australian Red Cross and James Cook University on Menstrual Hygiene needs of women and girls in disaster settings. 

For more information, have a look at the full report below.

Here below a few shots from the fieldwork in Vanuatu! Credits to Australian Red Cross.

The first picture shows Male volunteers and staff conducting awareness raising sessions with men, which then helped pave the way for talking with the women.
In order of appeareance you can then observe: 

  1. awareness training sessions prior to fieldwork, 
  2. MHM kits being prepared for distribution in advance of the trial
  3. Interview with a woman with mobility challenges

From Malawi Red Cross

From Sri Lanka Red Cross

Northeastern monsoon induced floods in 2019 swept across Gallella– a remote township of Polonnaruwa district in North Central province of Sri Lanka, leaving the most vulnerable in a far more vulnerable position with property loss, disrupted livelihood, shelters and hygiene facilities damaged and displacement, in an environment where women and children face diverse challenges. 

 “Considering the many diverse challenges faced by the community, women in particular face problems related to matters that have an impact on their hygiene”, one lady highlighted to the Red Cross Branch team of Polonnaruwa during a field visit, “there is no privacy in the displacement sites, especially during the difficult days”. And the team observed piles of the garbage next to the school that was once the displacement site and later discovered that the presence of used-sanitary pads prevented men from cleaning the venue as it was considered a taboo in the community. 

Ms Samanthi Wijekoon, the Branch executive officer consulted different layers of the communal structure and dared to talk about Menstrual Hygiene to men and women. “Why not we burn them, but who is gonna collect them?” it was one of the men present in the meeting. 

“An incinerator?” Samanthi looked at the team, and nodes and “yes” were overheard. They all said an incinerator would be a great idea as long as it’s installed next to the female toilets and covered in a way that the privacy of women are protected. 

 After a brainstorming session, all agreed to go back and get a technical sketch immediately. And the team found a design that Solidarite International and Oxfam has piloted in Sittwe IDP camps of Rohingya population in Mayanmar and quickly contacted one of the contacts based in Sittwe and got the technical sketch, and some men and women in the community along with a few teachers, principal of the school and the Red Cross-team, adopted it to Sri Lankan context and further adapted to the context of the particular Muslim community in Polonnaruwa. “We will use the welding shop in the community, it is run by a father of one of our students, and it would help him to catch up with his loss during the flood,” The principle of Al Azhar College said, and everyone agreed. In three weeks the incinerator was ready, and women and girls decided where to install the incinerator and the men supported with the operation.

 “Such an idea is far from our imagination, even my daughters used to take them home as they do not have a place to drop them in the school,” The MoH Medical officer of health of the region had the opinion that the MHM incinerator is not only useful during the times of displacement, but also in peacetime. The dignity of women and girls and their health and hygiene matters not only during the disasters but all time and the more men know about them the more they can positively contribute to an enabling and respectful environment. 

 The MHM incinerator in Polonnaruwa implemented under IFRC DREF response to Northeastern monsoons is a story of PGI mainstreamed wash, successful engagement across social ecology and inter-agency learning, in addressing a burning but very little spoken need across the nation and the world. And, breaking the silence and getting people to speak about their needs opened a gateway to community-led and owned sustainable solutions.