Waterloo Menstrual Hygiene Day opens up dialogue on global sanitation and hygiene crisis

Friday, May 25, 2018

woman with wash buckets

By Ana Jung, the Water Institute

Maintaining personal hygiene is important in leading a healthy life. For women, this is of particular importance during menstruation. However, many women around the world face barriers in menstrual hygiene management including knowledge, attitudes and practices and lack of water and sanitation/hygiene facilities.  

Students from the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences have recognized this problem and are raising awareness around menstrual hygiene by organizing a day on campus to facilitate dialogue and discussion about this issue.

“As a health studies student, I have always been interested in health equity, particularly reproductive health,” said Fiqir Mequanent Worku, graduate student in Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems. “Dialogue around menstruation is important to highlight the issues facing women and girls in developing countries, and educate people that reproductive health is affected by a number of things, including water and sanitation.”

The first Menstrual Hygiene Day was initiated in 2013 by WASH United, a non-profit organization that works to end the global sanitation and hygiene crisis. It was created to promote education on menstrual hygiene management around the world, especially in developing countries, where women and girls are faced with problems related to MHM that directly affect their self-esteem and quality of life. 

“The lack of awareness and education among boys and men on these subjects leads to some prevailing misconceptions and negative attitudes towards menstruation,” said Water Institute member Susan Elliott, professor in Geography and Environmental Management. “Menstruating females often face restrictions on activities such as going to school and work, which further propagates the problem as less knowledge and income leads to not having the tools necessary for hygienic menstruation.”

In many developing countries, girls reaching puberty stop attending school due to the lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilitates necessary during times of menstruation. Affordability of sanitary products, and accessibility, remains a key barrier to hygienic menstruation, especially for those living in rural and remote regions. Inadequate waste disposal systems also limit options when it comes to the types of sanitary products used and can lead to embarrassment associated with inadequate disposal, delaying the timely discard of used products.

“I realized that there is a great disparity of reproductive health knowledge among my peers,” said Fiqir. “Hosting Menstrual Hygiene Day, a free event open to the University of Waterloo community, is another way that we can share information and provide opportunities for discussion around some of the critical issues facing our world.”

Register to attend on May 28

This year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day took place from 11:00 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. in the Science Teaching Complex. Supported by the Water Institute, HeForShe and the Applied Health Sciences Endowment Fund,  the day included a museum exhibit showcasing Eden Hennessey’s Women in STEM photos, a panel discussion and a viewing of the documentary, Menstrual Man.

Get involved in 2019

For students interested in getting involved with the next Menstrual Hygiene Day in 2019, email mhdayuw@gmail.com