In 2015, Pure Water for the World (PWW) volunteer Katie Reed, released a report evaluating the need for Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Honduras and found that the need was high. The report suggested that PWW work with local health professionals to establish a menstrual hygiene management component to the current health education curriculum.
Key findings included:
- Adolescent girls missing school due to menstruation-related causes,
- Women and girls negatively altering their daily hygiene habits and diets during menstruation, and
- Men and boys lacking understanding of and respect for women and girls who are menstruating.
With the advice from this report, and diligent planning on behalf of the PWW team, a MHM program was launched in 2016. The MHM program aims to improve accessibility to, and knowledge of, menstrual health and proper hygiene.
- PWW builds gender-specific, private latrines with handwashing stations at schools in order to reduce the physical barriers girls face while menstruating at school.
- PWW trains teachers how to teach about the topics of menstruation and the menstrual cycle and how to talk to students, of all genders, about menstruation and puberty.
- PWW shows teachers, students and families how to make reusable menstrual pads.
- PWW urges schools to make hygiene kits available, which include sanitary pads, toilet paper, and medicine for menstrual pain.
- PWW provides education to families about menstruation and menstrual hygiene management.
In many Honduran communities, the menstrual cycle often causes psychological barriers, which lead to negative stigma and fear. Menstruation has not been considered a topic of education in the school systems and is often not discussed in homes, so young girls are fearful when they first begin to menstruate.
The main objective of PWW’s MHM workshop is to remove barriers and provide women and girls with the understanding, skills and tools to stay healthy, prevent infections, and safely manage their monthly menstrual cycle. The workshops also focus on teenage pregnancy prevention, which has statistically reduced the rate of teenage pregnancies in areas where the workshops have been implemented.
The MHM workshop benefits women and girls by reminding them that menstruation is a natural and biological event.
- All biological women go through menstruation during their lifetimes, and it is important that they do not feel ashamed by a natural occurrence.
- Women and girls learn how to manage their cycle, how to remain hygienic during their cycle, how to talk to their friends and family about menstruation.
- Women and girls learn how to create reusable sanitary pads.
- Women and girls are empowered to feel more comfortable in their bodies and in their place in society – as equals to men regardless of a biological function.
- Men learn more about menstruation so their lack of understanding no longer impacts their wives, sisters, and daughters.
- Boys learn from a young age what menstruation is and normalize it.
- By improving knowledge about menstruation among the male population, the goal is to eliminate the shame surrounding the topic and improve the support and understanding of female family members.
- The workshops help to cement a sense of community. Community members come together to participate in the workshops and work together to create reusable sanitary pads.
- The workshops help menstruation to become a normal part of the conversation and not a topic or event to tiptoe around.
- Young girls feel supported by their family and teachers, empowering them to spend more time in school, even when they are menstruating. These girls are able to achieve an education and positively impact their community.
In 2019, two PWW volunteers, myself and Annette Butty, conducted a follow-up study based on the 2015 study. The objective of the 2019 study was to evaluate the MHM program to make sure it was both working and positively affecting the communities where it was implemented. The results of the study were overall very positive.
- A larger population of students reported knowing about various topics regarding menstruation after the MHM program was introduced.
- Every teacher surveyed reported that they were teaching about menstruation at some point during the school year.
- Two doctors were surveyed who discussed how they gave speeches in the school regarding menstruation as well.
- More extensive data can be found in the report (click here).
Long-term menstrual hygiene education is especially vital to the lives of women and girls. Access to menstrual hygiene education, accessible sanitary products, pain relief, and adequate sanitary facilities at school irrevocably improve the health and lives, including the schooling experiences and opportunities, for girls and women in Honduras.
To achieve gender equality worldwide, education is typically the first step. Ensuring that girls can remain in school during menstruation is vital to completing their education and securing a better life. Aside from education, girls maintain (or gain) self-respect and self-awareness. With menstrual hygiene knowledge, girls and women will no longer feel like a burden during their menstrual cycle; rather they become empowered and doors to their future are opened!