Creating a #PeriodFriendlyWorld: HFFG Calls for Education, Access, and Empowerment

Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed annually on May 28th, serves as a crucial platform to advocate for and educate about menstrual health and hygiene. This year’s theme is “Together for a #PeriodFriendlyWorld” which spotlights a vision where menstrual stigma and taboos are eradicated, and everyone has access to the necessary products, education, and infrastructure. This theme captures a world where menstruation is not a source of shame but a natural biological process that is openly discussed and managed with dignity and respect.

According to the United Nations Popution Fund (UNFPA), 800 million individuals between the ages of 15 and 49 menstruate, with over 500 million of them facing limited access to menstrual hygienic products and services. Additionally, in sub-Saharan Africa, one (1) in (10) girls absent themselves from school due to period poverty. And with a population of approximately 800 million girls and women, Africa faces the highest levels of  period poverty globally. 

Hope For Future Generations, an organisation that prioritizes women’s and girls’ empowerment, led a menstrual hygiene initiative “Pads for Girls Everywhere” in 2020 to mark its 20th anniversary. This campaign focused on providing over three (3) million sanitary pads to adolescent girls in schools across selected rural communities, promoting safer and healthier menstrual management practices. Each year, with support from UNFPA, HFFG distributes about 250 sanitary pads to adolescent girls living with HIV and promotes period hygiene through its Out-of-School Reproductive Health Education program. 

With the gap in period poverty widening, we continue to see an increase in taxes on period products making it increasingly difficult for girls and women to afford them. This has led them to use improvised materials like rags, leaves, or newspapers during their periods, which are not sanitary and can cause serious infections. 

Moreover, the stigma and taboo surrounding menstruation worsen the issue. Many cultures still consider menstruation dirty or shameful, leading to social exclusion and discrimination. This stigma prevents open discussion about menstrual health, further marginalizing women and girls and limiting their access to necessary resources.

With the focus of this year’s theme on creating a #PeriodFriendlyWorld, a collective effort is required not only to normalize conversations dismantling the stigma around menstruation but to advocate for access to affordable, reusable and safe menstrual products which are essential for menstrual hygiene management. Currently,  over 20 billion pads and tampons are being dumped into landfills every year, and these disposable products take hundreds of years to decompose. This makes it a harmful product that pollutes our oceans and marine environments.

As we urge governments across the world to work towards subsidizing taxes on period products and ensuring clean facilities with running water and proper waste disposal methods especially in schools, we also ask them to consider the adoption of reusable period products for a safer environment.

On this Menstrual Hygiene Day 2024, let us remember that creating a world that is friendly to periods and eliminating period poverty is an ongoing effort towards achieving gender equality and a healthier world. It demands consistent dedication and action from all parts of society. We need to take action now to build a world where menstruation is not a hindrance but an acknowledged and respected part of human life.