Amplifying the voices of young people will only strengthen the global movement for menstrual health
Menstrual health is a crucial part of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of menstruating women, adolescent girls, trans men and non-binary people. According to UNICEF (2023), approximately 1.8 billion people menstruate each month. Yet many do not have access to safe and affordable hygienic products, adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education or environments free from stigma and of menstrual shame. This can prevent them from achieving their menstrual health, leading to menstrual poverty.
The definition of menstrual health (2021) states that “menstrual health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity related to the menstrual cycle”. This means that menstruating women, adolescent girls, transgender men and non-gooder people should have access to accurate and age-appropriate information about menstruation, use effective and affordable menstrual materials with facilities and support services, access timely diagnosis and treatment for discomforts and disorders related to the menstrual cycle, experience a positive and respectful environment, free from stigma and psychological distress. They should also have the freedom to participate in all spheres of life without exclusion, restriction, discrimination, coercion and violence related to menstruation.
Period poverty is a global problem that can affect anyone who menstruates at any stage of their reproductive life cycle, but can have a disproportionate impact on adolescent girls. This can cause them to miss school, which can lead to dire circumstances that lead to gender-based violence or child marriage. Adequate menstrual health programs that address menstrual health holistically, create supportive environments, and promote rights-based approaches require information from lived experience. Including the perspectives of menstruating adolescents and adolescent girls in the co-design of intersectional, inclusive and rights-based menstrual health programs, communications and advocacy efforts could ensure contextual, culturally appropriate and responsive intervention. the age that leads to achieving menstrual health.
Menstrual health movements around the world are focused on changing the way people perceive menstrual health, not only as a water, sanitation and hygiene issue, but also by raising awareness of the challenges around menstrual health as a human right and a public health issue. The global menstrual health movement needs more young voices, so it can continue to evolve to meet the needs of women, adolescent girls and all people who menstruate! Youth inclusion promotes positive social change, ensures inclusion and many more.