Even though half of the population menstruates, there are no existing policies supporting the creation and implementation of proper menstrual hygiene management conditions in Pakistan
More than 100 representatives from government, international and national development organizations, civil society, along with a host of experts from across health, academia, media, donors, and youth convened at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services, in Islamabad, to commemorate the International ‘Menstrual Hygiene Day 2016.’
Menstrual Hygiene Day serves as a neutral platform to bring together individuals, organizations, social businesses and the media to create a united and strong voice for women and girls around the world, helping to break the silence around menstrual hygiene management (MHM). This year, the global theme of the day is “Menstruation Matters for Everyone, Everywhere.”
In Pakistan, a panel discussion focusing on how the health, education, and sanitation of adolescent girls is impacted by lack of proper MHM was organized. Panelists included government representatives from across the country delving into much needed solutions to tackle the taboo and associated problems that females especially young adolescent girls face. The event was organized by the MHM Working Group, a coalition of humanitarian organizations working to champion menstrual hygiene rights in Pakistan.
Chief Guest for the event, Hon. Romina Khurshid Alam, MNA, stated, “It’s heartening to see that both civil society and the government are coming together to shape up a better society. While the issue is not openly discussed, it’s high time that more voices join the cause to create a better tomorrow”. On government initiatives she revealed that, “Sustainable Development Goals Taskforce and the government is very actively engaged in not only addressing gender based issues but also focusing on improved health, education and facilities. Suggestions have been approved to update the curriculums in school and special projects are being rolled out across the country.” She also went on to appreciate the role being played by the MHM working group.
In her opening note, UN-Habitat Country Programme Manager, Bella Evidente, while commenting in relation to MHM said, “In our society, menstruation is surrounded by stigma and misinformation. Inadequate MHM directly affects a female’s self-esteem, health and education. This platform provides much needed spotlight on an issue which remains hushed up in Pakistan. As a result, the needs of women, especially in regards to sanitation, have never been brought to the fore-front, and sadly, not all women have access to the tools they need to manage their menstrual cycles. It is time that all sectors come together to break the silence around MHM by supporting strong policy implementation across all state levels,
In her closing remarks, UNICEF representative, Angela Kearney underscored the serious consequences of lack of proper hygiene management facilities on young girls. “It is unfortunate and unacceptable that the management of menstruation continues to present significant challenges for women especially in lower income settings. Adolescent girls bare most of this brunt as they lack the knowledge and services to manage menstruation which in turn affects their learning experiences. Research shows that marginalized girls can miss up to two to four consecutive days of schools every four weeks due to their periods. This of course has serious implications on their learning,” she said.
The core objective of the event was to promote sharing and learning of experiences from various interventions being conducted across the country and at the same time engage government to take a more proactive stand to implement policies and fund MHM in Pakistan.
The discussions will culminate in policy recommendations for relevant ministries in Pakistan to support necessary actions to improve the status of MHM in the country.