Breaking taboos and improving menstrual literacy in emerging economies
It is positive to see the actions being taken by governments around the world to address and prioritize menstrual health issues. One major challenge in many parts of the world is the basic stigma surrounding menstruation as such. This challenge not only prevents public conversations about the topic but also prevents women from learning more about their menstruation and being able to tell natural symptoms from indications of more serious conditions.
There are many actors involved in trying to breaking these taboos and as a recent example Swedish start-up “Grace Health” have launched a period tracker that helps women in emerging markets gain better control of their menstrual and fertility cycle while increasing their knowledge about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health at the same time.
The app is a chatbot which actively reminds the user to provide information on menstruation, health and general well-being. But the user can also share information about their own menstruation and ask sensitive questions. This way, users can continuously improve their menstrual literacy. The service is launching in Ghana during 2019, but has its eyes set on the 1,2 Billion women living in low- and middle-income markets with access to mobile phones.
Another example of breaking taboos through education is “Vagina Varsity”, an online program launched in South Africa by the Essity brand Libresse. The program was developed together with gynecologists working in public hospitals providing expertise and explanations to women on everything they need to know about the vagina. Students signed up and, every day for a month, they received video links, educational facts, product information, weekly tests and more. The initiative sparked numerous conversations on TV chat shows, in the press and online throughout 2018.
Going forward – It all starts with the conversation
The work to improve the menstrual hygiene, health and well-being of women all around the world, whether through education, technological innovations or policy regulations, starts with talking about it. When taboos are broken and stigma is removed, the needs of girls and women can be addressed openly and we can combine ideas of individuals, companies and policy makers in the progress towards greater equality. Through the work of many organizations, institutions and individuals, progress is being made towards breaking the silence on menstruation and actions are taken with implications for women’s health, education, livelihoods and well-being.
Virginia Kamowa, PhD, Senior Technical Expert Menstrual Hygiene Management, WSSCC, summarizes: