A pilot programme in Myanmar provides both menstrual health support and economic opportunity
- 15 December 2021
KAYAH and RAKHINE STATES, Myanmar – As a woman living in an internally displaced persons camp in Kayah State in eastern Myanmar, Ei Ei* has limited access to menstrual hygiene products. “Without income, I could not afford to buy these things unless someone gives them to me for free,” she said. “Sometimes I have to use pieces of cloth during my period. It is not hygienic or convenient, but I have no choice. Without proper menstrual hygiene support, we women are losing our dignity.”
Not only do women feel they are losing their dignity, they may suffer health complications including reproductive and urinary tract infections and stigma and rejection from the community. In addition, lack of menstrual health support can limit women’s and girls’ mobility and, consequently, hinder access to basic services and humanitarian support including health services, education and livelihood opportunities.
Rising humanitarian needs
The 2021 Myanmar Humanitarian Needs Overview identified more than 1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including some 336,000 displaced people (of whom 29 per cent are women and 20 per cent are girls) in camps or displacement sites. In June, the addendum to the 2021 Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan identified an additional 2 million people needing emergency response assistance due to the escalation of conflict and chaos driven by the political crisis.
UNFPA, with its implementing partner organizations, has ensured the continuation of essential sexual and reproductive health services – including menstrual health and hygiene – to vulnerable populations in affected areas.
This year, one partner organization introduced the Safepad Pilot Project in Kayah and Rakhine States to both fulfill the menstrual health and hygiene needs of vulnerable women and girls in conflict-affected areas and promote income-generating opportunities for local women.
“It has dual impacts on empowering local women through livelihood support and ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights for the women and girls at reproductive age,” said Nan*, a project manager.
Under this project, 20 local women in Kayah State and 19 in Rakhine State were trained to produce 3,600 antimicrobial reusable pads, which the partner organization then purchased in a buyback programme to distribute to 900 women and girls in displacement camps.
Addressing broad hygiene needs
The project’s menstrual hygiene management kits also include reusable masks, hand gel, underwear, a bucket, laundry detergent and information on menstrual health management.
“I am benefiting a lot from this project,” said Ma Wai, who was trained to produce Safepads. “Women in our community have income. Our products are delivered to the women and girls in the displacement camps who need sustainable menstrual health hygiene management supplies and information. As a local youth, I feel empowered.”
*Names changed for privacy and protection