10th Anniversary of Naba Martin Adongo Abilba III

School girls celebrating menstrual hygyiene day
School girls celebrating menstrual hygyiene day

Good menstrual hygiene, SDGs

Menstruation is an inevitable part of most women’s lives. However, across many cultures and religions, menstruation has been regarded as an impure natural occurrence. Hence, it is highly stigmatised with taboos and other negative social norms.

Most researchers refer to menstrual stigmatisation as period stigma and they link it to body shaming. Any form of body shaming including period stigma can affect people’s emotional, physical and mental health. Eventually, the negative impact leads to reduced quality of life and diminished social status.

Wherever period stigma is an issue, there is a vehement insistence that women menstruating must keep out of sight and avoid routine household work, religious activities, etc. and this makes them feel deserted. In the Christian, Hindu, Judaic, Islamic and many other religions, menstruation has been considered unclean and treated with disdain. 

It behoves all of us to continuously and impactfully create awareness that helps to fight period stigma. I choose to do so this year, with this piece in the Daily Graphic. Menstrual flow is a natural occurrence; it must not attract body shaming to demean menstruating ladies. 


Menstruation refers to a natural discharge of blood and tissue from the uterine lining through the vagina, lasting an average of five (5) days. It is part of a woman's monthly menstrual cycle. Menstruation occurs between menarche, a girl's first period, and menopause when menstrual cycles end. 

Accordingly, the menstrual cycle is the monthly process in which female hormones stimulate an ovary to release an egg, thicken the lining of the uterus to support a pregnancy and then cause the uterus to shed this lining, in the absence of pregnancy. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but this varies among women and from month to month. In teens, the menstrual cycle can range from 21 to 45 days, but for most women, it is 21 to 35 days.

Hormonal Changes 

Certain hormonal changes precede a menstrual period while others occur during and after it. Such menstrual hormonal changes can make the menstruating lady experience heightened emotions, mood swings, lack of sleep, irritability or horniness (increased sexual desire). These experiences also vary among women and with the passage of days within the menstrual or post-menstrual period. Mostly, however, a woman may feel hornier during ovulation because her desire to have sex usually increases around the ovulatory phase, which starts about 14 days before the period and might last until about seven days before. Ovulation is a phase of the female menstrual cycle that involves the release of an egg (ovum) from one of the ovaries. 

Menstrual Hygiene 

Perhaps, it is clear to this end that menstrual cycles are tied to reproductive health as well as other aspects of women’s health. A key part of good health for women is hygienic menstrual practices. Unfortunately, the issue of hygienic menstrual practices fails to receive proper attention worldwide. 

Hygienic menstrual practices include but are not limited to daily baths and sanitary pad use during menstrual flows. Sadly, these essential sanitary products have become highly inaccessible to women and adolescent girls, hence they find it difficult to maintain their menstrual health either because the pads are too expensive or they are unavailable, especially in rural Africa. (Kuhlmann, Henry, and Wall, 2017).

Menstrual hygiene management is a great challenge because in the absence of sanitary pads, menstruating ladies, especially in rural areas, compellingly use old clothes, paper napkins etc. For example, some school-based studies (Kuhlmann, Henry, and Wall, 2017) found poorer menstrual hygiene among girls in rural areas and those attending public schools.

I dare assert that keeping good menstrual hygiene must be a shared responsibility between governments and those who menstruate. Good menstrual hygiene management requires education, clean toilets, soap, clean water, menstrual products and good waste disposal systems.

Aside from these, other systemic factors such as well-trained & informed professionals, positive social norms, sound public policies and quality health services are pivotal to good menstrual hygiene management.       

Sadly, some governments are highly tax-driven, hence they tax sanitary pads, making those essential products financially inaccessible. 

History and 2023 Theme

The German-based organisation called WASH United initiated World Menstrual Hygiene Day (WMHD) in 2013, making WASH United the overall global coordinator of MH Day and acting as its international secretariat. Since 2013, WMHD has been observed on 28th May to essentially normalise menstruation and the importance of good menstrual hygiene. 

Each year, MH Day is observed under a chosen theme and the 2023 theme reads, “Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030”. The overarching goal is to, by 2030, build a world where no one is held back because of menstruation.

Why 28th May?

WASH United has chosen May 28th to mark the WMHD annually because May is the 5th month on the Gregorian calendar. Also, most women experience menstrual flow for 5 days and the average menstrual cycle is 28 days. This makes 28th May very symbolical for observance as WMHD. On this day, therefore, we must all work in unison to heighten the awareness creation agenda regarding access to menstrual hygiene and to sustainably fight menstrual stigma. 

SDGs and Menstrual Hygiene 

Specifically, none of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relates directly to menstrual hygiene. However, good menstrual hygiene management is relevant to the attainment of SDGs 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12, which relate to healthy lives, quality education, gender equality, water and sanitation, productive employment, as well as consumption and production patterns respectively.  For example, a girl missing five school days monthly translates into 60 missed school days in a year. This can affect the attainment of SDG 4. It is, thus, not strange that the 2023 WMHD theme resonates with the SDG deadline of 2030.    


Poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure undermines the educational opportunities, health and overall social status of women and girls around the world.

Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is a global advocacy platform that ignites relevant partnerships that promote good menstrual health and hygiene. 

Menstruation is a natural occurrence that matters to everyone. Therefore, all women and girls of menstrual age should be supported to manage their menstruations hygienically, safely, in privacy and dignity, and devoid of stigma. Girls must not be ashamed even if they mistakenly stain themselves in public with menstrual flow. Let us fight the menstrual stigma with unity of purpose and promote stigma-free menstruation worldwide. 

The writer is a hospital administrator
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