Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018: How USAID Is Working Toward Female Empowerment Through Sanitation and Hygiene Activities

Girls take menstrual hygiene management into their own hands as they make reusable menstrual pads as part of an after-school program in Uganda. Photo credit: USAID/WASHplus

This year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day celebration is all about women’s empowerment. In many countries, women and girls’ participation in education and public life is severely curtailed when they have their periods. Empowering women and girls is a key goal of USAID’s efforts to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions in communities around the world. Providing girl-friendly washrooms and menstrual hygiene education and supplies are some of the ways USAID’s WASH assistance helps reduce the stigma associated with menstruation and ensure that women and girls experience #NoMoreLimits related to their periods.

USAID recognizes menstrual hygiene as a vital part of the health and dignity of women and girls. Working in nine countries across 14 different activities, USAID has promoted menstrual hygiene education at the community and household level, provided menstrual hygiene supplies in schools, and assisted governments in creating national menstrual hygiene management policies. The backbone of USAID’s own menstrual hygiene management strategy is the belief  that women’s economic and political empowerment can be bolstered by reducing the loss of productivity associated with menses.

Recent and current projects alike highlight this year’s #NoMoreLimits message. For example, the Nepal Safe Wash II program aims to empower women by reducing chhaupadi, a practice that requires menstruating women and girls to sleep in menstrual huts, through improved sanitation infrastructure and hygiene behaviors. At the award’s completion in 2019, it is estimated that 60 public latrines will be completed, 80,438 households will have access to improved sanitation facilities, and at least 50 percent of the water user committee membership in each community will be female.

Similarly, the Malawi Girls’ Empowerment Through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE) project will wrap up in December 2018. One of the goals of the program is to empower women both through various economic activities, such as sewing school uniforms and reusable menstrual hygiene pads, and expanding access to water at school, latrines, and other sanitation facilities that improve menstrual hygiene. So far, the program has reached 126,526 girls, supported 343 mother’s groups, re-admitted 1,059 girls in school, and built 14 latrines.

Click here to learn more about this year’s MH Day theme and to access campaign messaging, and be sure to check out the most recent issue of USAID’s Water Currents newsletter, featuring the latest reports, news, and videos on menstrual hygiene health.

Share your stories and spread awareness for MH Day by using the hashtags #NoMoreLimits and #MHDay on Twitter and tag us @USAIDWater.

By Claire Hubert of the USAID/E3 Bureau Water Office’s Water CKM Project