WHO statement on menstrual health and rights

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Menstrual health is firmly on the global agenda today.

Menstrual Health was not on the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development nor in the Millennium Declaration. It is also not explicitly stated in the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals for goals 3 (health), 5 (gender equality) or 6 (water and sanitation). However, it has been included in global health, education, human rights and gender equality/equity agendas by grassroots workers and activists from the global South, drawing attention to reports of women’s and girls’ experiences of shame and embarrassment. , and the barriers they face in controlling their period because they do not have the means to do so, with consequences for their life chances, including their rights to education, work, water and sanitation, non-discrimination and gender equality and, ultimately, to health. WHO salutes grassroots workers and activists, particularly those in the global South, who have stubbornly defended menstrual health, and welcomes the inclusion of menstrual health on the Human Rights Council’s agenda.

The WHO calls for menstrual health to be recognised, framed and addressed as a health and human rights issue, not a hygiene issue:

The WHO calls for three actions. In the first place, recognize and frame menstruation as a health problem, not a hygiene problem, a health problem with physical, psychological and social dimensions, and that must be addressed in the perspective of a life course, from before the menarche until after menopause. . Second, recognize that menstrual health means that menstruating women and girls and others have access to information and education about it; to the menstrual products they need; water, sanitation and disposal facilities; to competent and empathetic attention when necessary; live, study and work in an environment where menstruation is seen as something positive and healthy, not something to be ashamed of; and participate fully in work and social activities. Third, ensure that these activities are included in the relevant sector work plans and budgets, and their performance is measured.

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WHO recognizes that various sectors have equally important roles to play in promoting and safeguarding menstrual health and is committed to intensifying its efforts to encourage policymakers and health program managers to collaborate with these sectors to promote the rights of menstruating women, girls and others. and meet their comprehensive menstrual health needs, especially in humanitarian settings. WHO is also committed to breaking the silence and stigma associated with menstruation and making schools, health centers and other workplaces (including WHO workplaces) menstruation responsive.

Governments are beginning to act, but much more needs to be done.

Activists, including youth, and non-governmental organizations have done much to put menstrual health on the agenda. A growing number of governments are taking action. Some governments have removed taxes on menstrual products. Others have focused on the challenges school-age adolescents face in obtaining menstrual products. Others have put in place strategies to provide menstrual products to populations in difficult circumstances, such as those who are homeless or incarcerated. Finally, a handful of countries have implemented laws and policies for medical leave when one experiences pain, discomfort, and other symptoms and signs related to menstruation. These are useful steps, but governments could and should do more than improve access to menstrual products. They must make schools, workplaces and public institutions support the management of menstruation with comfort and dignity. More importantly, they should normalize menstruation and break the silence that surrounds it. Finally, in the context of what is happening in Ethiopia, Ukraine and elsewhere, governments must include menstruation care as part of a broader Sexual and Reproductive Health response for those displaced due to war or natural calamities. .

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