Plan International Bangladesh in collaboration with UNICEF Bangladesh has organized a National Workshop of Promoting Sustainable Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Bangladesh.
The Workshop was designed by two interactive sessions. In the morning session, it was shared good practices on the promotion of MHM at community and institutional levels drawn from Plan’s water, sanitation and hygiene programming with support from UNICEF Bangladesh. The second session was designed with interactive activities also held an exhibition on affordable cost Sanitary Napkins produced by adolescent girls and private entrepreneurs and hygiene promoting materials.
In the morning session, the Honorable Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative Ms. Nasreen Akhter was adorned as Chief Guest, Director Primary Health Care of Directorate General Health Services Dr. Khaleda Islam was attended as Special Guests. The welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Zakariyah (Bisi) Agberemi, WASH Specialist UNICEF Bangladesh. The session was chaired by Orla Murphy, Country Director, Plan International Bangladesh.
In this session the real-life experiences including the challenges, implementation process and success in promoting Menstrual Hygiene Management was shared by Mr. Zillur Rahman, WASH Head, Plan International Bangladesh. He also shared some recommendations which emerged from current Plan International is working, with 102 unions and 1410 schools on comprehensive WASH activities where the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is one of a key component. The second presentation by Nilima Ahmed was on sharing the findings of formative research of MHM in Bangladesh which conducted by the Plan International on February 2017, major findings from the presentation are as follows:
- In Bangladesh menstruation is something that is considered shameful that should be hidden and ignored;
- Most women and girls dry their rags in ‘dark’ or ‘shady’ places out of site: behind a door, behind or under other clothes, in the corner of a roof;
- During menstruation, most commonly prohibited some selected foods. Also restrictions relating to movement during menstruation on religious lives, marital lives, family lives, education and work.
- In school there is no separate toilet for girls with MHM facilities including disposing use napkins;
- Although MHM was on the curriculum, teachers feel shy to discuss it and instead tell girls to study the relevant chapter of their books at home.
- Most of the school has no female teacher to discuss the MHM sessions for girls
- Some male believed that they would be harmed if they saw these, the notion of menstrual blood as harmful to men.
- Adolescent girls has lack knowledge of the biological reasons for their menstrual cycle.
The Chief Guest Ms Nasreen Akhter in her speech, she feels and agreed upon to work on this issue. It is very much important for women development. She committed that she will endorse a letter and discuss with inter-ministerial meeting on countrywide MHM operation. She also committed to try her best to issue a letter to all stair of Local Government to allocate budget for WASH activities where she will emphasize to build separate toilet for girls in the schools.
Youth Alliances International facilitated an interactive session on identifying stigmas and challenges related to MHM that women and girls’ experience at the individual, community and institutional levels with participation from Government representatives, Development organizations, Local Government institutions, Teachers, Religious leaders, Youth, Media, Private sector, etc.
Women entrepreneur of SaniMart demonstrated the production of sanitary napkin which is supported by Plan International Bangladesh. It was highly appreciated by the audience. A very interactive panel discussion was held after onward the demonstration session.
The Chief Guest of second session Ms. Jebunnesa Afroz Hiron Honourable Member of National Parliament and Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, assured to work for girls and woman. She wanted a district level drastic activity on this issue. She stated that, now a days we should talk about MHM, male involvement is very much important as our rural families are male headed, also should have to change our mindset first.
The program was presented by Ms. Salma Sultana, Communications Specialist, Plan International Bangladesh.
- Break different taboos e.g. restrictions on diet, try to hide, thought of impurity, tendency to not to share within family and speak up within family and outer world about menstrual hygiene management.
- Increase awareness, admit it as a natural issue. Work men and women together to break up.
- Work collaboratively with all relevant government ministries to get access on sanitary napkin in lower price considering all class.
- Government should make menstrual hygiene management friendly budget.
- Discuss on menstrual hygiene management with more importance in reading materials.
- Involve mass media to convey information up to grass root level.
The event was closed up with these way forward for promoting sustainable MHM as well as contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh.