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The challenges of poor menstrual health

Poor menstrual health (MH) poses similar challenges as adolescent pregnancy does to girls’ health and education.

Despite it being a foundation to human life, menstruation is still shrouded in stigma and taboo in many societies – because of poor knowledge.

This limits girls’ ability to manage menstruation in hygienic and dignified ways, resulting in poor health and school absenteeism.

But this is about to take a turn. A global movement has started with the aim to change the approach.

A paper published last week titled “Prioritising periods and preventing unwanted pregnancy: addressing menstrual and reproductive health in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea” is one looking into this area.

The paper stated that:

“While evidence on MH and school attendance in the Asia-Pacific is poor, exploratory research in Timor-Leste highlights that understanding of menstruation is limited, with girls unaware of menstruation prior to menarche. Research also shows menstruation can be a deterrent from attending school, but access to appropriate facilities and products can help overcome this. New research is currently being undertaken on these issues in Solomon Islands, Fiji, and PNG with funding from the Australian Government, which will provide further evidence on MH in the Pacific.”

The paper also notes separate approaches on pregnancy (sexual and reproductive health) and menstrual health.

In an innovative new partnership supported by the Australian Government through the Gender Action Platform, Marie Stopes International Australia (MSIA) and WaterAid Australia aim to tackle these two areas simultaneously, recognising that both reproductive and menstrual health are critical to girls’ ability to be healthy, educated and empowered.

Sexual and reproductive health services (including family planning) and menstrual health education will be provided to adolescent girls and boys, as well as adult community members, in rural and urban Timor-Leste and PNG.

Facility upgrades will take place so school toilets are better equipped and more discreet and local sanitary product development will be tested by women entrepreneurs. The project will also strengthen cross-collaboration and learning within the development sector.  LoopPNG