Analyzing Menstrual Hygiene Day
Photo Credit: WoMena
How Organizations are Using May 28 to Further their Goals
Written by: Jennifer P. (IMHER Research Assistant)
Edited by: Sophie B. (IMHER Research Assistant)
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is held annually on May 28. Over the last five years, it has become an annual celebration and useful tool for MHM organizations, which tend to conduct a variety of community events (educational, fundraising, political, menstrual product distributions, etc.) on the day itself, and in the days leading up to it. This post provides an overview of Menstrual Hygiene Day, along with some tips for organizations to start thinking early about next year’s MH Day events.
Menstrual Hygiene Day was started by WASH United to bring menstrual health and hygiene organizations and their partners together on a local and global scale. Its specific date (5/28) was chosen because menstruation most typically occurs for five days, within a 28-day menstrual cycle (even though wide variation tends to be experienced by menstruators in practice.)
In early spring, WASH United’s Menstrual Hygiene Day website announces the “theme” for the upcoming Menstrual Hygiene Day, which can help to bring a unique focus to each year’s MH Day activities. The 2019 theme – “It’s Time for Action” – calls for support from both public and private sectors, including politicians and businesses, in order to accelerate change in support of menstruators.
Started in 2016, WASH United’s website for MH Day is designed as a base for the coordination of Menstrual Hygiene Day. It provides a place for event submissions and event listings, and it offers MH Day materials (logos, infographics, etc.) to promote planning and social media work (materials are free for use by individuals and non-profit organizations, while for-profit organizations can only use their logos with a corporate partnership arrangement; see the regulations for MH Day logo use here.)
With most activities coordinated locally by individual organizations, there tends to be wide variance in the types of advocacy activities that take place in honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day around the globe. Here are some of the most common types of events:
- Education: Educational programming around menstruation held in schools, after school clubs, and in community gathering places is a common activity organized for Menstrual Hygiene Day.
- Product Distribution: Menstrual pads or other menstrual products are sometimes distributed to girls in need on, or around, May 28, in honor of MH Day. Often those distributions occur in conjunction with educational programming.
- Fundraising: Beginning as early as March, some organizations start “Menstrual Hygiene Day” sections or pages on their websites that promote certain fundraising goals that they hope to reach by the time MH day occurs (see, for example, Zana Africa, ActionAid, Plim Positive, and Omprakash.)
- Political Action: Politicians sometimes use Menstrual Hygiene Day as an opportunity to promote policy proposals and/or MH awareness, and often these activities are informed by the work of MH organizations. See, for example, about how politicians in Nepal used MH Day to call for action.
- Community Activities and Parades: This video depicts some of the community activities at the center of the MH Day programming held by Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) in an eastern province in Rwanda in 2018. See also: this article posted on WoMena’s blog which discusses some of the 2017 MH Day events held in Uganda.
- Media: Organizations often leverage events focused on the above activities to generate media attention for their organization and/or for MH issues.
The activities listed above tend to be extensions of standard activities conducted by organizations. However some organizations run different types of events. Here are some examples of creative approaches to MH Day programming:
- In India, The Times “Women’s Drive” will be driving a decorated car from Mumbia to Ganpatipule to Goa while distributing sanitary pads and other materials to women.
- Students at Hongik University in South Korea will be having Period Picnics where they can make sanitary cloth pads and get some tips for plastic free periods while having talks about menstruation.
- In London, Plan International UK is hosting a Menstrual Cycle on London’s South Bank, during which members of the public will compete head-to-head on stationary bikes.
- In Burkina Faso, The BARKA Foundation will inaugurate two MHM Cabins that were built at Fada N’Gourma’s high schools to provide girls with a place to privately address their menstrual needs.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
In the days leading up to May 28, many organizations address Menstrual Hygiene Day on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
By using the hashtags developed by WASH United, organizations are provided with a way to connect with other parties affiliated or interested in MHM beyond their personal followers. This year they are #ItsTimeforAction and #MHDay2019.
Some organizations use social media to issue “challenges” to supporters in the weeks leading up to May 28 in order to increase awareness via social media. For example, Irise International, an MHM organization based in the UK with a particular focus on work in Uganda, asked their followers to write why menstruation matters to them and post it on their social media pages to bring attention to the silence that surrounds period talk. Another example is the organization Project Period, based in the UK, which has a series of MHM-related giveaways to followers who like, tag and find other users to follow the account in the weeks leading up to the day.
Sometimes created by organizations themselves, and sometimes created for use by other organizations, videos and other forms of digital storytelling can help to educate and advocate for menstrual health and hygiene issues on MH Day.
For example, WASH United is creating a crowd-sourced highlight video for 2019 that shows people around the world responding to the following question in less than ten words: “What do you think is needed to create a world in which women and girls are no longer limited because of their periods?”
Depending on whether it is focused on MH Day 2019 in particular, or whether it focuses more generally on MH Day and MH issues without being tied explicitly to a particular year, it may prove to be useful as an advocacy resource moving forward. Either way, asking people to participate in advocacy efforts can often be an effective form of advocacy in its own right.
GATHERINGS OF MHM EXPERTS
Some conferences and symposia in the past have been scheduled in the past for May 28, as a symbolic day for those working on MHM to come together to collaborate and share information.
Perhaps the most prominent example of that was the major UNFPA-sponsored symposium focused on MHM held in Johannesburg on May 28-29 in 2018. For a summit of that magnitude – a milestone event that gathered leaders not just from Africa, but from around the world – the timing around MH Day was useful. Among other benefits, the media attention for it helped to benefit the issue, the global nature of work being done, and MH Day itself, for an effective triple win.
In practice, however, there tend to be some challenges associated with attending events away from an organization’s center of operations on May 28 or the days leading up to it. That is because all hands tend to be needed for the implementation of local MH Day events. As such, there seems to be a growing recognition that May 28 should be avoided for future MH gatherings. For example, at the ACMHM meetings in December 2018, when the idea of holding a planning session on May 28 was suggested, IMHER noted that the idea was swiftly shut down by many participants on the basis that they need to be able to focus on advocacy activities at home.
Perhaps in response to those concerns, some gatherings for MHM organizers in 2019 have occurred online, in the weeks leading up to May 28, rather than on the day itself.
SOME TIPS FOR LOOKING TOWARDS 2020
- Follow MH Day’s social media sites to be informed about the 2020 theme once it is released. You can also subscribe to the MH Day newsletter here.
- Start gathering ideas for next year’s events now. Check the MH Day’s event listings for 2019 to get ideas for your organization’s events next year. You can even look through the listings from previous years on the MH Day website (they have kept events from 2016 onwards listed, which makes it a handy resource; also note how the numbers of listed events have grown over the years.)
- Set a calendar reminder to add your organization’s 2020 event to MH Day’s event listings. Consider putting an automated note on your calendar now to check the MH Day website in the early spring of 2020 to add your event description next year (see the form for adding 2019 events here.)
- Think creatively about new types of events. Might you be able to expand the reach of your message – and awareness of your organization – by doing something a bit different on next year’s MH Day than your standard array of activities?
- Get to work early on encouraging media attention for the next MH Day. Remember that media attention can help to promote your organization while also creating awareness for MH in your country. Talk to journalists about covering the issue. Consider writing an “Op Ed” (“Opinion Editorial”) piece to be placed in a high-profile newspaper in your country that has an op ed section around May 28. Also consider writing a “Letter to the Editor” for placement in local newspapers that offer sections for such letters. Finally, consider asking your supporters to write similar letters in their own communities (for example, see this “How To” list for letters to the editor that one organization makes available to its own supporters.)
- Don’t forget about other celebratory days! Check IMHER’s calendar of commemorative days to see other options for bringing attention to your message in the context of celebrations.