Making Menstrual Hygiene Management Matter: Pure Water’s Trojes Project Coordinator discusses the importance of addressing this often-taboo issue

As told by Marion Nonglaton:

ToiletThis photo is an example of where girls have to go to the bathroom when they have their period at school.

“I took this photo to show why girls often don’t go to school when they are menstruating,” said Marion Nonglaton, Pure Water for the World’s Project Coordinator in Trojes, Honduras. “And this is when they have a toilet. But more often, they don’t have a toilet at all.”

May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day that serves as a platform to bring together individuals, organizations, social businesses and the media to create a united and strong voice for women and girls around the world. It seeks to help break the silence around menstrual hygiene management.

Nonglaton is working with the Pure Water for the World Honduras team to integrate menstrual hygiene management into schools’ curriculum and to ensure that girls have access to safe, hygienic toilets at school.

This Menstrual Hygiene Day, Pure Water asked Nonglaton to explain her perspective on menstrual hygiene in Honduras:

Why is menstrual hygiene management education needed in schools?

A lack of knowledge about and facilities to manage menstruation often leads to girls missing school for about one week a month. Can you imagine the consequences of missing a quarter of school days each year? Furthermore, many parents have limited education themselves and can’t help their children with missed schoolwork. This puts girls at a disproportionate disadvantage in higher educational achievement.

What is the situation now in Honduran schools – both in terms of education about menstrual hygiene management and availability of toilet facilities?

According to Honduras’ national curriculum, menstruation should be covered as a part of natural sciences. But due to time constraints in covering all the topics in the curriculum, it is rare that menstruation is covered in depth. In addition, in the small communities of Trojes where Pure Water works, there are often cultural sensitivities to discussing the topic that teachers don’t want to face.

Moreover, there are rarely latrines at schools; and when the school does have a latrine, it is not connected to water, is badly ventilated, and in general is in a bad state. Having to use a dirty facility to change feminine products with no trash receptacle and having to share toilets with boys can repulse and embarrass girls, so they do not go to school when they are menstruating.

What is Pure Water trying to do to improve knowledge around menstruation?

We are planning to have two different education components that include women and men: one in schools and one with the entire community.

We have chosen this model because we have observed that the eldest girls in large families are often pulled out of school to care for their siblings when they are about 10 or 11 years old, exactly when they may be hitting puberty. We don’t want to exclude girls who are not in school by limiting our outreach to the classroom.

Also, Pure Water conducted a baseline study on community knowledge of menstrual hygiene. We found that boys and men demonstrated a willingness to learn about menstruation but had very limited knowledge. We don’t want to exclude them either. We believe that educating boys and men would help them be more sensitive to their mothers, sisters, daughters and female classmates.

So, the first component will be adding menstrual hygiene management to our current community-based Personal Hygiene Workshop. We will cover the following points:

  • What menstruation is and what are normal symptoms.
  • How to take care of personal hygiene during menstruation.
  • Appropriate behavior during menstruation and combatting common misconceptions (i.e. it is important to eat well, you can exercise, you can bathe, get enough sleep, etc.).
  • Basics about contraception.

The second component will be training for teachers on menstrual hygiene management so they can more easily include it in their classes. This would cover the previous points, but in a deeper way. We plan on conducting a baseline study on teachers’ current knowledge and to what extent they currently integrate this topic into their curriculum. This training would also help teachers understand the importance of good-quality, gender-specific latrines so that they could advocate to their supervisors for improved sanitation access.

What can the public do to support this effort?

Your support to Pure Water for the World not only provides lifesaving clean water and safe sanitation, but also a package of hygiene services that improves the overall health of communities. This Menstrual Hygiene Day, support of Pure Water for the World’s work in Honduras, specifically designated towards menstrual hygiene, will help build our menstrual hygiene programming, which is slated to launch later this year. Tweet #MenstruationMatters to show your support for this important issue.