RENEW and Ministry of Education collaborate to improve menstrual health management

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On May 11 2021, Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) and Ministry of Education signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote adolescent sexual health and rights, and menstrual health management among girls and adolescents.

The MoU signed by RENEW and Ministry of Education aimed to combat sexual and gender-based violence, strengthen psychosocial support, and provide education on sexual reproductive health and rights. 

During the signing, education secretary, Karma Tshering, said that menstrual health management is aimed at improving outcomes on education, health, and gender equality for girls and women.

Under the MoU, one of the first projects is to distribute reusable sanitary napkins to schools and nunneries. As a pilot project, reusable sanitary napkins will be distributed to girls in Genekha Lower Secondary School and Khasadrapchu Middle Secondary School in Thimphu.

Her Royal Highness Ashi Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck joined the call for menstrual health management and graciously consented to be the Patron of Red Dot Bhutan.

Red Dot is a project under the Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNICEF & SNV to raise awareness on the menstrual challenges faced by women and girls, as well as seeking solutions to address the challenges. Ministry of Health, Save the Children (SCF), UNFPA work in close partnership with the ministry, while RENEW went aboard the project yesterday.

Under the Royal Patronage of Her Royal Highness Ashi Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck, Red Dot Bhutan endeavours to make menstrual mealth and hygiene a priority in the country.

Below is the message from the Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness Ashi Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck:

To raise awareness on the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to menstruation and highlights solutions to address these challenges, Bhutan started observing the Menstrual Hygiene Day in 2015.

Bhutan completed five years of observing Menstrual Hygiene Day in 2020, a milestone in our efforts to raise awareness on menstrual hygiene. As the country embarks on a new cycle of raising awareness and actions on menstrual hygiene management, I call on all to renew your efforts and support the efforts the Government and partners have been making towards menstrual hygiene.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated menstruation-related challenges women and girls face around the world and the need to address these challenges have become more urgent and pronounced. We have made good progress in ensuring access and availability of menstrual hygiene products and in destigmatizing the taboos around menstruation.

However, much needs to be done. 

Gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty, and lack of basic services often cause girls' and women's menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet. These issues have far-reaching negative impacts on the lives of those who menstruate: restricting their mobility, freedom, and choices; affecting attendance and participation in school and community life; compromising their safety; and causing stress and anxiety.

We must understand and acknowledge that the onset of menstruation coincides with new opportunities - and vulnerabilities - that arise during adolescence. Menstrual health and hygiene interventions can be an entry point for other gender-transformative programmes during this period, such as sexual and reproductive health education and life skills development. By strengthening self-efficacy and negotiating ability, menstrual health, and hygiene programmes can help girls build the skills to overcome obstacles to theirhealth, freedom and development, such as gender-based violence, child marriage and school dropout. Investments in adolescent girls' well-being yield triple dividends: for those girls, for the women they will become, and for the next generation. 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), are international human rights treaties that Bhutan is party to and are of particular relevance to menstrual health and hygiene. Understanding menstrual health and hygiene within this context requires a holistic approach to our women's and girls' wellbeing. The biological fact of menstruation, the necessity of managing menstruation, and a society's response to menstruation is all linked with women's and girls' wellbeing and gender equality. 

Women and girls' access to menstrual health and hygiene is also central to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The lack of basic knowledge about puberty and menstruation may contribute to early and unwanted pregnancy; the stress and shame associated with menstruation can negatively affect mental health; and unhygienic sanitation products may make girls susceptible to reproductive tract infections - all affecting SDG health outcomes.

Menstrual health and hygiene management is a national call to ensure the wellbeing of our girls and women. We need to sustain the progress made to date. We must ensure that the impacts of the on-going pandemic do not exacerbate menstruation-related challenges for our girls and women. We must ensure that all our menstrual facilities are inclusive. 

I call on all to join the call and together, we must ensure that our girls and women are able to manage their monthly menstrual cycle in a dignified and healthy way.

(Source: Gyalyum Charitable Trust)

Karma Tshering said HRH’s patronage will inspire, motivate and empower the team of Red Dot Bhutan and others to mainstream menstrual health management across the country and ensure the dignity of girls and women.

At the event, the United Nations Fund for Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, launched the State of World Population Report 2021 - 'My Body is My Own'.

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, goodwill ambassador of UNFPA, launched the report. 

The report calls upon institutions and leaders to extend support and resources required for individual rights and choices to be carried out in a meaningful way.



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