The biological fact of menstruation shouldn’t be a barrier to gender equality or stymie women’s and girls’ realization of their human rights. Yet many studies have documented how girls and women are able – or not – to manage their periods have a negative impact on how they are able to exercise and enjoy their rights.
Decisions about how refugee camps, detention centers, schools, and workplaces operate all affect how periods are dealt with. With too little support to handle their periods, women and girls are forced to stay home from school or miss work, while others are banished by their families and subjected to humiliating treatment in their communities. Many lack even the most basic thing a woman who is menstruating needs: access to a safe toilet with clean water where she can manage her period with dignity and privacy.
People who work in development and for aid groups may understand these concerns, but still feel they lack the proper tools to address them. In time for World Water Day, Human Rights Watch and WASHUnited have released a French version of 2017 practitioners guide, which helps aid workers, development professionals, and anyone who works with women and girls to address menstrual hygiene using a human rights framework.
This World Water Day, and every day, we should be working to break the silence around menstruation, and ensure women and girls can manage their periods and be free to get on with their lives.