Menstruation and the global goals

Menstruation and the global goals

Can we achieve total sustainability if we include menstruation in developing projects? Not really. But when we look at UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we see an opportunity to include menstruation in multiple development disciplines such as poverty, health, education and sanitation.

Sustainable Development Goals logo. Image: globalgoals.org

Sustainable Development Goals logo. Image: globalgoals.org

In 2015 UN  set 17 global goals for sustainable development, the SDGs. The SDGs include goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, secure good health and well-being for all, reduce inequalities, and fight climate change. Giving menstruators the ability to handle their menstruation safely, and reducing the shame surrounding it, can be one of the strategies to reach several of UN’s sustainability goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 1. Image: globalgoals.org

Sustainable Development Goal 1. Image: globalgoals.org

Goal 1 - no poverty
Periods are not only something that happens inside the body. Periods are part of the whole community  since menstrual hygiene products, in the absolute majority of nations, are not free. They are sometimes very expensive and even taxed as luxury products. As a result, people with less economic means may not be able to purchase hygiene products. Free pads, tampons or other products can make it possible for the menstruating person to spend money on food, household items or other basic needs, or even save money for a higher education. 

Sanitary pad. Image: canva.com

Sanitary pad. Image: canva.com

Goal 3 - health and wellbeing
Being exposed to dangerous and potentially deadly infections due to the usage of unhealthy menstrual products is a health risk. The most effective way to ensure that all menstruators have  good menstrual health is to secure the distribution of hygiene products while also reducing the shame surrounding menstruation. Shame and taboos surrounding menstruation often lead to exclusion and reduced mental health. As a result  the menstruator may not feel comfortable asking for money for menstrual products and therefore uses unhygienic protection such as old dirty cloth and old newspaper. Other aspects of menstruation related to bad health are menstruation related disorders such as endometriosis. More research on these disorders will lead to increased health for those affected.

Goal 4 - quality education
Shame and exclusion can result in young menstruators missing up to 20% of school, or completely dropping out. Quality education means education for everyone, with inclusive and effective education environments that are gender sensitive. The shame, taboo and myths regarding menstruation are some reasons why girls have lower school attendance than boys. Not being able to buy menstrual hygiene products on their own leads to students not attending school during menstruation, as a result of bullying due to blood stains. Even though some young menstruators attend school during menstruation, many are afraid of blood stains and refrain from participating in presentations and such. Therefore, an effective education environment provides menstrual hygiene products and includes menstruation in the school’s curriculum.

Goal 5 - gender equality
This goal includes the work for ending domestic violence and discrimination, access to reproductive health care and rights, and equal rights to economic resources and leadership participation. By ensuring quality education and ending the shame and exclusion due to menstruation, menstruators can take place in politics and claim economic and land rights. Normalizing menstruation in society may lead the way  toward changes in the low societal status of women and non-men.

Sustainable Development Goal 6. Image: globalgoal.org

Sustainable Development Goal 6. Image: globalgoal.org

Goal 6 - clean water and sanitation
This goal specifically encourages “paying special attention to the needs of women and girls” when working for access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene. Paying special attention to women’s’ and girls’ needs, in this context means to pay special attention to those able to menstruate. During menstruation the body is more susceptible to infections, hence hygiene is of utmost importance Privacy and being able to dispose of one’s menstruation products is important for the sanitary reasons and for the menstruator’s dignity.

Hanna Hellström / MyPeriodIsAwesome .jpg

Hanna Hellström

Project Manager My Period Is Awesome Sweden

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