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May 29, 2015

World Menstrual Hygiene Day observed


May 29, 2015

As part of an effort to break taboos and myths around menstruation process and to encourage females to raise their voice against harmful practices linked to the process, the world commemorated Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) on Thursday.
On this occasion, prominent international and national development organisations, government officials, academia, called for a collective approach to break the silence around this issue “when over 42 million (roughly 22 per cent) girls in Pakistan are in the age bracket of adolescence (10 to 19 years).”
The call was made in an event organised by WASH sector organisations on Thursday to raise awareness about the importance of proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for women and adolescent girls. People from different sections of the society, civil society organisations, government departments and health sector participated in the event.
The issue is surrounded by myths all over the world that in some cases date back to Roman times - don’t look in a mirror or it will lose its brightness, don’t touch a plant or it will wilt - persists today in many countries and range from harmless to extreme including banishment from home to outdoor shed etc.
Many such embarrassing myths prevail in Pakistani society regarding special days for women that are nothing more than a normal process. For instance, at some places of Kalash, women are required to stay away from homes during their monthly menstrual cycles as they are considered impure.
Uneso estimates one in 10 African girls miss school during because of this issue, leading to a higher dropout rate. One school study in Ethiopia reported over 50 per cent of girls missing between one and four days of school per month due to the same reason. Some 66 per cent of girls-only schools in India do not have functioning toilets.
According to a study conducted by Association for Gender Awareness and Human Empowerment (AGAHE), girls in Pakistan do not get adequate

and affordable sanitary protection both commercially produced and homemade enabling them to continue attending school in this condition.
In the current market in Pakistan sanitary pads are sold for $2, unaffordable for majority, whereas low cost options are not available widely. Instead, the vast majority of women and girls in Pakistan use rags from old cloths which will have potential health risks. According to survey, 94 per cent of girls using cloth were ready to quit using the unsafe method if low cost option is available in marker. The study suggested establishing production unit for production of low cost sanitary napkins.
Unicef 2012 report mentions that one of the less documented obstacles that hinder girls’ education in developing countries is absenteeism during these days. Studies show that marginalised girls miss up to four consecutive days of school every four weeks due to this reason, meaning that they miss 10-20 per cent of school time, seriously impacting on their achievement at school.
“This year, the focus of MH Day is to break down the taboos so that MH issues can be discussed as natural bodily function,” says Country representative WaterAid Siddiq Ahmed Khan while speaking at the event organised to commemorate the day in Pakistan. “It is of vital importance to her dignity.”
He said that for partners working in field, this day is not only an opportunity to raise awareness, but also to strengthen government role and accountability around MHM. “Development of strategies and linking it with Health and educational sector is extremely important because it shows that the government is committed to making sure that MHM materials are accessible and affordable,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion Unicef Representative Angela Kearney said that they help to ensure that collective voice of MH day is heard loud and clear. “The continuous support of government, civil society organizations, development partners, donor agencies and media in Pakistan will help to make this integral aspect a part of education and health,” she said.

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