United Methodist Committee on Relief

Menstrual Hygiene Day: Empowering Girls through Education

By Bella DiFilippo and Lorrie King*

Across the developing world, the number one reason girls drop out of school is the lack of water and sanitation infrastructure to support their periods. Cultural stigmas, religious beliefs, and lack of information cause adolescent girls to feel ashamed of menstruation, as they experience teasing and/or fear of the unknown. Without the knowledge and facilities that they need, most girls will choose to stay home during mensuration rather than face potential disgrace, and thus fall behind in their classes. Menstruation, a girl’s natural physiology, shouldn’t keep girls from going to school.

In 2016, the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR’s) Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program expanded its focus to include facets of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) to empower girls to complete their educations. The UMCOR WASH program supports adolescent girls in vulnerable communities by providing access to clean water, soap, separate latrines, sanitary products, and puberty education. Following World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF best-practices, these programs are implemented in partnership with UMC schools, churches, and health boards.

El Por Blue Latrines El Porvenir Nicaragua.jpgUMCOR partner El Porvenir, based in Nicaragua, repaired latrines for girls in a local community. PHOTO: EL PORVENIR, NICARAGUA

In 2017, UMCOR’s MHM integrated programs are supporting girls in 12 countries, but it’s not just the girls who benefit. Male and female teachers receive training in MHM and participate in health education alongside students and their parents. Educational booklets are also made available for students and teachers. WASH clubs with MHM activities are also encouraged in schools. Comprehensive MHM and sustainable development go together, reinforcing six of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, targeting gender equity in education, sanitation access, and workforce development. Most of all, MHM is foundational to female dignity. 

education about menstruation.pngINFOGRAPHIC: WASH UNITED

To meet these WASH program goals, Global Ministries’ Global Health Unit offers grants to UMC partners around the world, supporting a holistic approach to community-based health and development. You can support these WASH programs by donating to Advance #3020600.

To learn more about UMCOR’s MHM and WASH programs, contact Lorrie King, WASH, Food Security, and Livelihoods Programs Manager and first U.S. Ambassador for Global Menstrual Hygiene Day 2014.

*Bella DiFilippo is Program Area Liaison from Communications for Global Ministries 

*Lorrie King is Program Manager for UMCOR WASH and is Program Manager for Food Security, and Livelihoods of the Global Health unit

View “Menstruation matters to everyone, everywhere” provided by WASH United.