Giving Compass' Take:

• The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating menstrual health inequities for women, but more investment in menstrual health and hygiene initiatives could bring about positive outcomes for women and girls.

• The author mentions that foundations can embed MHH into their current efforts to boost female empowerment. How can individual donors take action for menstrual health? 

• Learn about this intersectional approach to tackling menstrual equity. 

Menstrual Hygiene Day this year holds particular significance. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges related to menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) and is set to deepen inequities for women and girls around the world. Critical healthcare workers⁠—70% of whom are women⁠—struggle to manage their menstruation due to the difficulty in refitting personal protective equipment, and the limitations to when and where they can shop for menstrual products after long hospital shifts. School closures limit girls’ access to free, government-provided pads and tampons across geographies, and economic hardship leads to households deprioritizing menstrual products in favor of food essentials. Foundations and governments have also diverted existing budgets to fight the spread of COVID-19, exacerbating health and economic gaps for women.

Even without a global pandemic, over 500 million women and girls around the world do not have what they need to manage their menstruation. They lack affordable, high-quality products of their choice, and adequate sanitation facilities that support their needs during menstruation. Yet gaps in MHH go far beyond managing periods. Poor knowledge and awareness of menstrual cycles have a negative impact on the sexual and reproductive health of both women and men. Stigmas and harmful norms related to menstruation perpetuate inequities at the individual, community, and institutional levels. Together, the factors that contribute to poor MHH hinder progress toward gender equity.

Given the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, focusing on menstruation in the pandemic response provides an opportunity to fast-track efforts to improve MHH. Foundations that embed MHH into their current efforts can empower women to thrive in a post-pandemic reality. Companies that provide the right kinds of menstrual products and sanitation facilities can boost the productivity of their female workers. Governments that prioritize MHH funding can safeguard past investments and ensure that gains to increase gender equity are not lost during the pandemic.

Read the full article about menstrual hygiene health by Laura Amaya at FSG.