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Menstrual Health Takes Center Stage as WHO and HRP Commit to Water Action Agenda, Urging Countries to Prioritize Promotive, Preventative, and Curative Health Services

Dr. Venkatraman Chandra Mouli, Scientist at HRP and WHO, expressed appreciation for the organizations’ dedicated efforts, stating, “Thanks to the dedicated and ongoing work of WHO and partners, this Menstrual Hygiene Day we are celebrating progress toward a response from the health sector that meets adolescents’ need for information and services.”

Commitments Aligned with Health Advocacy

WHO and HRP, in collaboration with UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO, Global Menstrual Health Collective, and Columbia University, have made recent commitments on menstrual health within the Water Action Agenda at the UN Water Summit. These commitments aim to advocate for countries to include promotive, preventative, and curative health services, as well as access to adequate water supply and sanitation, in their national universal health coverage policies and strategies.

Building on Past Initiatives

Drawing on a foundation of 15 years of work on adolescent menstrual health, WHO and HRP have identified key areas for action. These include educating girls about menstruation, promoting positive norms surrounding menstruation, improving access to sanitary products, water, and sanitation facilities, enhancing family support, and ensuring access to competent and compassionate healthcare workers.

Amplifying Adolescent Experiences and Research

Research has highlighted that adolescent girls often lack information and preparation for menstruation, leading to feelings of exclusion and shame. This knowledge gap hinders education, self-confidence, and personal development. WHO’s menstrual health initiatives aim to address these barriers by engaging girls and women to share their experiences, reducing the gender gap, child marriage rates, and adolescent pregnancies.

Tools for Effective Care and Support

To meet the needs of adolescents and their caregivers, HRP and WHO have developed desk reference tools for health workers. These tools offer guidance on providing empathetic care and support at the primary level, addressing concerns such as menstrual pain and irregularities.

Shaping the Future Landscape

Collaborating with partners, HRP and WHO advocate for the use of the term “menstrual health” instead of “menstrual hygiene” to bring menstrual health into the global health agenda. This consistent definition, developed by the Terminology Action Group of the Global Menstrual Collective, supports their efforts.

Looking ahead, HRP and WHO have conducted a review of the menstrual health field to outline the next ten years and the necessary steps to achieve the vision of health for all. They emphasize the cross-sectoral nature of menstrual health and WHO’s role in strengthening the health sector’s response.

Advancing Menstrual Health Agenda

Continuing their work in sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender, education, and humanitarian settings, WHO and HRP participate in the Africa Menstrual Health Symposium, focusing on achieving menstrual justice through grassroots and multisectoral approaches. This symposium precedes Menstrual Health Day on May 28.