Menstrual Hygiene Initiative

Tackling Menstrual Hygiene Taboos and Development of a Local Supply Structure of Sanitary Napkins in Dacope, Bangladesh

Quick Facts about the projects within our MHI program

 

Project Location: Dacope Upazilla, Bangladesh

Executive Partner: RUPSA, Khulna

Project Duration:  3 months first project

                             6 months second project 

 


Key menstrual health problems in Dacope

  • Huge taboos and superstitions on menstruation. Extremely conservative society.

  • High level of poverty and low education level (<30%).

  • 97% women are not using sanitary napkins. Cloths or rags from old saris are commonly used.

  • Menstruation cloths are not dried properly. Always hide from other family members.

  • Limited access to sanitary facilities (no nearby market is available in their reach).

  • Men are very much uncommon to buy sanitary items for women from market / city. It is also very unusual for women to go market alone.

Dacope Upazilla

Population: 157,500

Female / Male: 46% / 54%

Literacy Rate: 38%

Livelihood: Agriculture and Fisheries 


Implemented projects

MHI Project 2

Educational initiative and establishment of a supply structure to promote menstrual hygiene in Banishanta, Bangladesh

 

Project area: Dacope, Bangladesh

Project start: 01.04.2019

Duration: 6 months

Beneficiaries: expected 3,800 women and girls, actual 9.141 women and girls

Total costs: 15,082.61 EUR
Funding: 13,500 EUR, remaining amount covered by donations

 

 

The overall objective of the project was to improve the health care of poor women and girls in the project area through a sustainable supply of hygiene products and the dissemination of basic knowledge on menstrual hygiene.

 

The following points were implemented for this purpose:

 

1. Production and marketing of reusable sanitary towels

  • A production facility with three sewing machines for the manufacture of inexpensive, reusable sanitary napkins was built. This was also equipped with a sterilisation machine to guarantee the hygiene requirements of the sanitary napkins. A transport vehicle was also purchased to supply the women in remote villages with sanitary napkins.
  • In a 15-day training course, 13 women were trained as seamstresses for the production of cloth sanitary napkins. Together they developed two types of sanitary napkins, with a belt system and a panty system depending on the women's preferences. After a test run with ten women, the sanitary napkins were improved and adapted accordingly, based on the women's feedback. A total of 2,773 sanitary napkin sets have been produced so far.
  • Together with the group leaders and representatives of the schools, a sales and marketing system for the sanitary towels was developed after a market survey and implemented in such a way that the sanitary towels are affordable and, above all, accessible to poorer women and girls. 

2. Training and educational workshops to raise awareness

  • Our partner organisation RUPSA carried out ten educational workshops on general menstrual hygiene, the safe and healthy use of reusable sanitary towels as well as their washing and waste management, and the education of schoolgirls in the new menstrual age in various villages. A total of 2,443 women and girls took part in these workshops.
  • In a 14 workshops at twelve schools and two colleges, the awareness of healthy menstrual hygiene was improved among approximately 2,100 female pupils and 80 female teachers.
  • A total of 162 "yard sessions" on the topic of menstrual hygiene were conducted by 18 female group leaders. A total of 4,175 women and girls took part.

3. "World Menstrual Hygiene Day" on 28.05.2019

  • At the annual "World Menstrual Hygiene Day", which was held with the support of the MHI project with RUPSA, a rally and subsequent discussion with 200 participants from government circles and NGOs highlighted the importance of proper menstrual hygiene management for women's health.
  • In the village of Kakrabunia, a rally and subsequent discussion was held with 90 participants.
  • The Marti Mongal Secondary High School, with the support of the MHI project and RUPSA, organised a bicycle rally on this topic with 40 students.
  • Seven daily newspapers reported about the events of the "World Menstrual Hygiene Day", which were supported by our MHI project. 

4. Health Camps

  • Three health camps were set up in the project area in which a gynaecologist treated women and girls who had health problems due to a lack of menstrual hygiene. According to a previous survey, about 30% of the women in the project area suffer from these circumstances. A total of 343 female patients were treated. 

Fazit

 

Während des Projektzeitraums haben wir aufgrund unserer Erfahrungen festgestellt, dass die Gesamtnachfrage nach wiederverwendbaren Binden niedriger ist, als wir vor Projektbeginn erwartet hatten. Es wurde auch festgestellt, dass der Großteil der Nachfrage nach wiederverwendbaren Binden von Schülerinnen aus einkommensschwachen Gruppen in der Stadt Khulna kommt, obwohl wir große Anstrengungen unternommen haben, um auch Dorffrauen für unsere Binden zu begeistern. RUPSA möchte daher das Projekt unter Berücksichtigung aller auf den Erfahrungen der letzten sechs Monate beruhenden Probleme mit den folgenden Maßnahmen und dem folgenden Aktionsplan fortsetzen:

  • die Werbemaßnahmen für unsere DESHIPAD-Binden werden weiter fortgesetzt, auch online

  • die Produktion der Binden wird an den entsprechenden Bedarf angepasst

  • der subventionierte Preis für die Binden bleibt bis Ende 2019 bestehen und wird danach schrittweise angepasst, um die Betriebs- und Verwaltungskosten zu decken


MHI Project 1

 

Project start: 05.03.2018 

Duration: 3 months

Beneficiaries: 250 women age 12 to 45 years

 

We conducted a first project to learn about possible obstacles and local factors of menstrual hygiene management. As part of the MHI initiative, menstrual sanitary products were provided to the target group women and girls for the first three months by ASCEND through the local partner RUPSA. A multi-pronged training program was included to ensure women's capacity building, knowledge exchange on hygiene education and bridge with the local stakeholders. Afterwards a self-reliant supply and storage mechanism was established in the locality to ensure availability of menstrual sanitary products. The first project focused on the village Banishanta with the total costs of about 834€, resulting in a per-capita-cost of 3,34€ per person. 

Insights in the first project


What are Our Goals?

The project is planned with a multi-pronged behavioral and awareness raising communication approach for managing menstrual hygiene leading to women capacity building, knowledge exchange on hygiene education and bridge with the local stakeholders.

1. Breaking the chain of silence

As menstruation is a neglected topic, women and girls in the project area do not speak out about the topic and are not involved in decision-making – for example, household decisions to build a toilet or spend money on sanitary pads. The result is a lack of facilities and services, e.g. a lack of separate toilets for girls at schools. It also results in a lack of social support and the culture of fear, shame, embarrassment and silence, completing the circle of neglect. This pilot initiative is targeted to break the ultimate circle of the silence through awareness raising, capacity building and knowledge exchange on menstrual hygiene management.

2. Create a supportive environment

In West Banishanta Village, menstruation taboos lead to serious restrictions on the daily activities of menstruating women and girls; in many, the stigma means that they cannot discuss menstrual hygiene freely. To improve the lives of women and girls, ASCEND (and RUPSA) plans to break the silence and dispel the stigma and shame by engaging with communities through participatory channels such as community theater, schools, religious interactions, and interactive training.

3. Improve local awareness and knowledge

Due to the stigma and silence surrounding this issue, women and girls, and men and boys, often know very little about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. To address this critical gap, ASCEND (and RUPSA) intends to promote menstrual hygiene education through community platforms such as schools, communities, as well as in healthcare facilities. The targeted audiences could range from local government officials, traditional leaders, and community health workers who can help to reinforce important messages on menstrual hygiene throughout the community.

4. Improving access to sanitary products

In West Banishanta, women and girls do not have access to quality and hygienic menstrual hygiene products. With this project, ASCEND wants to ensure the availability, affordability and range of menstrual hygiene products by partnering with NGO RUPSA, social enterprises and the local stakeholders. After the pilot phase, ASCEND intends to provide seed funding through partner organization in Bangladesh to help establish menstrual sanitary marts, including purchasing the materials needed to produce sanitary pads, and stocking the marts with basic menstrual hygienic supplies.

5. Creating women-friendly sanitation facilities

Women and girls require safe, private sanitation facilities at home, at school and at work so that they can discreetly and comfortably go to the bathroom and/or change their menstrual hygiene materials. Key aspects targeted to address through this project include:

  • access to water and/or hand washing in or near the facility;

  • ability to lock the latrine from the inside;

  • discreet disposal (i.e. trash cans, trash chutes, etc.);

  • a place to hang reusable menstrual pads to dry. 

A national problem

In Bangladesh, participation of menstruating women and girls in society is limited by cultural beliefs and social norms. In addition, limited access to clean water, proper sanitation and sanitary napkins makes it difficult for women to manage their menstruation hygienically. As a result, many (young) women in Bangladesh face considerable physical and social challenges during their menstrual period. In Bangladesh, 95% of women do not use sanitary napkins. They use old rags, which are neither comfortable nor hygienic, and which lead to illness and inability to work.

 

A recent UNICEF survey showed how Bangladeshi women manage their menstruation and found that at least one third of women hide their menstrual rags in dirty places. One in three girls fail to change their cloths regularly or wash them with soap or detergent after use. Only half of the women dry their rags in the sun in the open air - which is a prerequisite for killing dangerous bacteria and germs. This inadequate management of menstrual hygiene leads to widespread vaginal and urinary tract infections.

 

 

In addition, women and girls in poor families tend not to seek medical help, even in cases of serious infections. A 2014 population survey in Bangladesh on health revealed that more than half of the women do not seek medical treatment until their husbands allow them to do so. Even if the husband decides that his wife or daughter needs medical care, a third of the women cannot travel to a hospital or health centre on their own.

 

 

Furthermore, there are still considerable taboos and inhibitions about women's health problems in society. Women who suffer from vaginal infections therefore rarely receive medical treatment. In order to reduce and prevent such health risks, comprehensive information and education campaigns are of fundamental importance, especially among poorer and less educated families in Bangladesh's rural regions, where taboos and inhibition thresholds are strongest.

How are the funds used?

Material

In the pilot phase village inhabitants will be supplied with hygienic sanitary napkins. During the first two months of the project, the napkins will be distributed free of charge to the village women in reproductive age for training, comfort-ability check and capacity building. The material costs in the pilot phase thus include sanitary napkins for two months as well as transport costs from the next town to the village.


 

Training and capacity building 

The training and dissemination are carried out by ASCEND volunteers accompanied by RUPSA. Training costs are low and comprise outlays for training documents, promotional banners and food costs during the campaigns. 

 

Administrative

These costs include transport costs for our helpers and organization and approval costs for the execution of the project.