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 can signal that a girl is ready for marriage and childbearing, even if she is still a child herself); stigma (banished to menstruation huts; barred from sharing meals); missed opportunity (skipping school because of pain and/or lack of personal hygiene products); and loss of dignity (lack of supplies and sanitation in humanitarian settings where even basics like soap and water can be scarce or unavailable.)
Among initiatives to support menstrual health and hygiene, UNFPA reaches people who menstruate with education, safe sanitation facilities, including in displacement camps, and with dignity kits containing essentials like soap, menstrual supplies and underwear. Recently, UNFPA has distributed thousands of kits in humanitarian settings as a result of conflict (Ukraine and Moldova, northern Ethiopia) and natural disasters (Haiti, the Philippines, Tonga, Malawi and Mozambique).
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.) It is meant to advance menstruation as a biological process so that people can menstruate without being cast out or missing out, without feeling fear or shame and without being treated like less or exposed to more vulnerabilities. It also raises awareness of period poverty, or the inability to afford the menstrual supplies needed to manage health and hygiene with dignity.