Empowering Bangladeshi communities through menstrual hygiene management

Themes: Behaviour change Gender Hygiene Sanitation
Countries: Bangladesh Bangladesh-local

By Aklima Khatun

WSUP Bangladesh, a leading advocate for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in the country, has been instrumental in driving change. Our work, spanning four cities, extends beyond infrastructure, focusing on behaviour change and community empowerment. A significant aspect of our efforts is the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) initiative, which has positively influenced the lives of numerous women and girls across Bangladesh.

Breaking the silence: Educating adolescents and women

WSUP, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), implemented an MHM project in Bauniabadh, Dhaka. We formed adolescent girls’ groups and organized hygiene education sessions. Here, 17-year-old Tina Akter learned about proper menstrual hygiene, including using clean cloths, napkins, and pads and safe disposal methods. This newfound knowledge-empowered Tina to share it with her family and friends, and she even became a volunteer to educate her community.

Making schools become safe havens

Arban Primary School in Dhaka grappled with a significant issue: inadequate sanitation facilities discouraged students, particularly girls, from attending. WSUP stepped in, leveraging a UNICEF-funded project under the Dhaka North City Corporation to repair the school’s latrines. This intervention enhanced the school environment and led to a noticeable increase in attendance. Kakoli Kundu, Principal of Arban School, highlighted the renewed interest from parents once their daughters felt safe and hygienic at school.

“The addition of two latrines has completely changed the school environment. I would not have believed this possible without being part of the process. Students now attend school regularly, and parents who were previously hesitant due to the unsanitary conditions are now eager to enrol their children here. I have witnessed a remarkable transformation.” said Kakoli.

Empowering young leaders: Shadhona Rani’s story

Shadhona Rani, a 20-year-old from Rangpur, exemplifies the power of community engagement. As a WSUP volunteer, she conducted MHM sessions and counselled young girls. She discovered that many girls used unhygienic methods during menstruation due to a need for more awareness and resources. Shadhona addressed this gap by educating girls and mothers on hygienic practices and encouraging sanitary pads and clean clothes. She even suggested proper nutrition for the girls during menstruation and the safe disposal of menstrual waste. Inspired by this work, Shadhona has not only transformed into a successful entrepreneur in the sanitary napkin and sewing business but also a beacon of hope and empowerment for other girls while promoting MHM.

Scaling up the impact: Reaching more schools

Under a Dubai Cares Project, WSUP collaborated with three city corporations to improve MHM facilities in 125 schools. We provided infrastructure upgrades, operation and maintenance training for school management committees, and extensive hygiene education for teachers. This program trained 250 teachers as ‘hygiene champions’ who continue to conduct sessions within their schools. Additionally, schools like Mokbulia Government Primary School took the initiative to create dedicated hygiene corners, ensuring girls have discreet access to necessary supplies. This collective effort and collaboration are what make these initiatives successful and inclusive.

Knowledge is power: Bithi’s transformation

Bithi Akter, from the Maingate community in Chattogram, is another testament to the collaboration between WSUP and VFC Corporation. After attending MHM sessions, she gained valuable knowledge on menstrual hygiene practices. The construction of a toilet facility and the educational sessions gave Bithi the tools and confidence to manage her period hygienically. Now, she empowers others by sharing this knowledge with her friends and family, destigmatizing menstruation and encouraging open conversations.

A passion for change: Ms. Shehela Ali’s dedication

Ms. Shehela Ali, a WSUP Project Assistant since 2013, exemplifies the organization’s unwavering commitment to MHM. Working with adolescent girls, women, and children, she focuses on behaviour change, particularly concerning menstrual hygiene practices. She acknowledges the challenges many girls and women face but finds hope in the growing awareness and collaboration with NGOs like WSUP. She is proud to be part of the movement breaking the silence surrounding menstruation and celebrates the government’s development of the National Menstrual Hygiene Strategy in 2021.

WSUP Bangladesh’s stories showcase the transformative power of MHM education and community engagement. By empowering girls and women with knowledge and resources, we are creating a future where menstruation is a normal part of life, not a source of shame or restriction. These initiatives pave the way for a future where every girl and woman can manage their periods hygienically and confidently, with dignity and without limitations.