Charities launch world’s first menstrual hygiene day to combat stigma and shame caused by inadequate toilet facilities
By Tahmeena Bax
In a slum in Kampala, Uganda, 16-year-old Lydia dreams of becoming a doctor. But she worries that the amount of schooling she misses every time she has her period is scuppering her chances of success.
“We are sharing the toilets with the boys, and we fear when we go to the toilets [they] will be in there. And so we don’t go to school when we have our periods,” she says.
Lydia’s mixed-sex school has just four latrines for more than 2,000 students, which means that she risks public humiliation every time she uses the facilities. “Some toilets don’t have doors and so we fear to enter as people can see or enter the toilets at any time. At the toilets, they don’t have water to flush or wash, and so it’s complicated to attend school when I have my period.”
The plight of girls such as Lydia has prompted several charities to try to boost awareness of women’s sanitary needs during menstruation. The coalition – which includes Water Aid, Save the Children, the Institute of Reproductive Health, International Rescue, and Plan – has launched the world’s first menstrual hygiene day on 28 May to draw attention to the many girls forced to miss school each month because of inadequate toilet or washing facilities and insufficient access to sanitary towels.