For some, menstruation may be an inconvenience they don’t give much thought to. But for millions of others, this most natural of reproductive cycle functions can equate to abuse (the onset of menstruation may lead to child marriage and sexual violence, violations of bodily autonomy); stigma (banishment to menstruation huts); missed opportunity (skipping school because of pain, discomfort and/or lack of personal hygiene products); and loss of dignity (lack of supplies in humanitarian and refugee settings where even basics like soap and water are in short supply or unavailable.)
The theme of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day is “Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health.” The day is observed on 28 May because menstrual cycles average 28 days in length and people menstruate an average of five days each month. (May is the fifth month of the year.) This year, UNFPA and UNICEF, in collaboration with UNESCO within the framework of the French Muskoka Fund partnership, organizes its first regional symposium on menstrual health and hygiene in West and Central Africa, to be held virtually between 24 - 27 May.
Recently, countries have made sanitary supplies free or tax-free to help fight period poverty. New Zealand, France and Namibia are the latest countries to announce such initiatives after Scotland became the first country to provide period products free to anyone who needed them last fall.
UNFPA supports sexual and reproductive rights for all. To menstruate without being cast out or missing out, without feeling fear or shame and without being treated like less or exposed to more vulnerabilities shouldn’t be controversial. Living with dignity is a human right that should be preserved. Period.