Guest blog, written by Roshni Patel, PWW student intern, Rutland High School, Rutland, VT
The topic of menstruation remains taboo in many societies. Cultural practices, social myths, religious beliefs and other subjects can make it feel difficult for men and women to talk about menstruation. Lack of information and lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and latrine facilities further aggravate the situation for many women and girls. In many countries, including the US, women and adolescent girls have to skip going to work and/or school when they are having their periods. The reason for this is the lack of education, regarding menstruation, and not being able to get access to sanitary items and hygienic places to safely use them. With the sole purpose of educating women, girls, boys, and men in Haiti and Honduras, Pure Water for the World has developed a Menstrual Hygiene Management Program as part of their comprehensive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs.
The 28th of May has been globally established as Menstrual Hygiene Day. This year, in Haiti, Pure Water for the World will organize an awareness day focused on menstruation in the community of Pistere, where the PWW team is currently working to provide 400 families with reliable access to safe water and critical hygiene education. The main goal of the day will be to break taboos and talk freely about menstrual hygiene and to be able to disseminate the necessary information on menstruation. PWW team members, in partnership with Soaring Unlimited, will host Community Agents (selected volunteers from the community who are working with PWW on the safe water program) in a workshop focusing on menstrual hygiene. The goal is to provide these women, who are now leaders in their community, with the knowledge and understanding of menstruation, healthy hygiene during menstruation, and the tools to address menstruation needs.
In Honduras, Menstrual Hygiene Management is incorporated into the school curricula. The staff members of PWW exchange information about healthy menstrual hygiene management with school teachers. PWW also provides information on menstruation to students and community members, which includes alternatives to sanitary pads since it is hard for women and girls to have access to sanitary pads in many communities. For some menstrual hygiene projects, they also provide the women and girls with kits, which include a reusable sanitary pad, medicine for the pain, extra undergarments and more. In addition, they provide training on how to make reusable pads.
In a conversation with one of the staff members, it was mentioned that PWW builds gender-specific latrines at schools, which provide girls with a safe and private hygienic place to use when they are menstruating. This will ensure that girls don’t have to skip school, during their cycle, due to the lack of facilities.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day this year, PWW Honduras staff members will focus on hosting three different events to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene management. They will mainly focus on working with teachers throughout Honduras. Due to the pandemic, it is still uncertain if these events will be hosted in-person or virtual, or a hybrid of the two.
As a high school student, I was in complete surprise when I heard about the PWW’s Menstrual Hygiene Program. In a conversation with one of the founders of the program, I learned how fortunate and privileged I am to have access to sanitary pads, a hygienic environment and a community where menstruation is not considered a taboo. I started my internship at Pure Water for the World because I have an interest in International Business, but, after learning about the situation in countries like Haiti and Honduras, I want to do work that will make a difference. Working on this blog has changed my perspective, and now I have more appreciation for the opportunities and resources I have.
Pure Water for the World does life changing work. Some ways you can be involved in changing the lives of women and girls in Haiti and Honduras is through making a donation on Menstrual Hygiene Day, 28th of May, and by spreading the word about Pure Water for the World. Even a little contribution can change someone’s life.
Thank you, Roshni, for all you have contributed to PWW during your internship. We wish you all of the very best as you embark upon your bright future.