Global G.L.O.W. had been planning to go big for May 28th, Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 – a full day of education and activities celebrated by all of our girls and mentors around the globe. Then COVID-19 happened. Schools closed, our clubs closed, Safer at Home orders and social distancing became the “new normal”. We struggled with whether to continue our planning; would clubs be back in session and even if they were should we welcome them back with a celebration about menstruation?
But periods don’t stop for pandemics and neither will we.
Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) remains an issue for girls and women around the world as they continue to have limited access to the resources they need for proper MHM including: clean water, clean menstrual hygiene products, and the safe spaces to use, clean, and dispose of those products. Unfortunately these barriers combined with the social and cultural stigmatization of menstruation are what keep millions of girls out of school every year. A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year.
Poor menstrual hygiene can cause physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections, according to UNICEF. It also stops women from reaching their full potential when they miss out on opportunities crucial to their growth. Our Partners share stories with us of girls being barred from school due to their periods. And even if they are able to attend school their teachers are often insensitive (or unaware) that girls would need to step out during class to change their sanitary pads or tampons.
So called “Period Poverty” is also a global problem. Even if access to period management products exists many are unable to afford the cost or the steep taxes that are often levied on menstrual hygiene products. Some resort to improvised products made from wadded up toilet paper or cloth. A study commissioned by Thinx and PERIOD found that 4 in 5 students (84%) in the US have either missed class time or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.
But there is hope! Through the good work of our local partners domestic and abroad, girls in Global G.L.O.W. programs have greater access to period products, education about their bodies, and a caring and safe adult to ask questions of and confide in.
Additionally, Global G.L.O.W. will soon be relaunching the Healthy GLOW program! First piloted in 2019, we developed Healthy GLOW to work alongside girls and ensure they have the information they need to stay healthy and in school. The ultimate goal of the Healthy GLOW program is to give girls what they need to have the confidence to advocate for their health and wellness needs and to make positive choices for their futures. We recently trained a group of Partner Coordinators on this important program and look forward to a day when they can begin club sessions with their girls!
And this year, though we know group gatherings won’t be possible for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 (MH Day) Global G.L.O.W. wishes to amplify the voice and reach of WASH United and the MH Day campaign by including MHM information and activities in our May Safer At Home packet. Perhaps the silver lining is that this year Menstrual Hygiene Day will take place in more homes with more parents and siblings to witness, participate, and become more educated themselves.
Want to get involved and support our Healthy GLOW initiative? Click HERE to make a donation.
Senior Program Manager
Program Design and Evaluation