Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 observed to promote action and investment in menstrual hygiene

NL Today

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Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed globally on May 28, striving to break the silence around menstruation and raise awareness about the critical role that menstrual hygiene plays in allowing women and girls to achieve their full potential. This year, the campaign was themed “Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health.”

Menstrual Hygiene Day has been observed since 2013, initiated by the German non-profit WASH United. 

The day is observed annually to break the silence about menstruation, promote awareness, and reform societal norms around menstrual hygiene. It also seeks to engage decision-makers to catalyze actions on global, national, and local levels.

In many societies around the world, including Nepal, menstruation is considered a taboo. Menstruating women are considered untouchable.

Bista emphasized that superstitions around menstruation exist in urban areas as well “no matter how high a family is in the social strata.” 

Menstruation Hygiene Day envisions that, by 2030, no woman or girl will be ostracized because of her menstrual cycle. It envisions a world in which everyone can access and afford menstrual products of their choice, period stigma is eradicated, and everyone, including men, has a basic understanding of menstruation.

Hima Bista, director of Women LEAD Nepal, an organization focused on empowering adolescent girls to be leaders, says that discussions regarding menstruation require nothing less than a “paradigm shift” in Nepal.

“The pandemic has unfortunately pushed back our attempts to work more intensively on this issue,” Bista told Nepal Live Today. “But we are on it, trying to shift the discussion from whether or not it’s a dignified process to normalizing it.”

Bista added that, for a country like Nepal where nearly 80 percent of the population lives in the rural areas, the societal strictures around menstruation in rural and urban areas need to be dealt with differently. 

Bista emphasized that superstitions around menstruation exist in urban areas as well “no matter how high a family is in the social strata.” 

“Community mobilization is necessary along with legislative reforms to tackle malpractices like Chaupadi,” she added. Chaupadi is a form of menstrual taboo which restricts menstruating women from participating in family activities and religious occasions. Under Chhaupadi, which is practiced mostly in far-western Nepal, menstruating women are ostracised and hosted in separate places away from their homes.

Bista argues that menstruation should not be treated as an issue that concerns women only. “It is equally important to engage men in the conversation regarding menstrual health as much as women,” she says. “Eradicating stigma around menstruation is a journey that requires solidarity across gender lines.”

There have been several interventions from the government, non-governmental organizations, and community stakeholders to break the stigma around menstruation. Yet it continues to remain a taboo.

But Bista is hopeful. “Overall I see our society progressing when it comes to menstrual hygiene and eradicating the stigma around the biological process,” she said. “That being said, we  also have to be more innovative while tackling the stigma in the future.”