While increased attention to menstruation as a significant health issue for women and girls is positive, some menstrual interventions promoted by Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programmes primarily focus on hygiene, infrastructure, and product provision. This focus fails to challenge the social and cultural stigma surrounding menstruation, as well as interconnected issues of gender discrimination, marginalisation, and inequality.
We advocate approaching menstruation as a matter of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), which recognises that sexual and reproductive health depends in part upon the realisation of the rights that support it. This requires a holistic approach to menstrual health that includes addressing shame, social stigmas and restrictions, and gender inequality, in addition to providing access to menstrual-friendly toilets. This holistic approach should also include comprehensive and community-driven sustained training and education about sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Drawing upon research on four grassroots NGOs in India, Goonj, Barefoot College, Jatan Sansthan, and EcoFemme, we demonstrate that locally based NGOs are well-placed to create community-based educational trainings, provide access to context-specific and culturally appropriate menstrual products, and, perhaps most significantly, to challenge stigma around menstruation.
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