Why does sustainable menstruation hygiene remain a challenge for most women around the world?


Did you know that since 28th May 2014 a “Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day” has been celebrated annually? MH was created by a German non-profit organisation “Wash United” to increase awareness that woman and girls around the world still suffer and are restricted by poor menstrual hygiene, persisting taboos and stigma around menstruation in general, and/or poor sanitation infrastructure. An article in “The Independent” estimated that “around half of women and girls around the world lack access to sterile sanitary products, and often have to use strips of clothing, grass or animal hides to manage their periods”. Sometimes even overusing a pad or tampon can, apart from the fact that it is unhygienic, cause huge health problems for women as well. The celebration of MH Day has therefore proved to be very important as it has led to non-profit organisations and government agencies to join forces to effect change around this important matter.

However, “period poverty” does not remain the only challenge, as sanitary products are mostly also very bad for the environment. According to weare.tearfund.org an average woman will use around 11.000 disposable sanitary items in her lifetime, contributing to an estimated 200.000 tonnes of waste per year from these products. Also, it is estimated by Unicef that over 45 billion feminine hygiene products are disposed of globally every year. But this is not all - most sanitary items are not made from biodegradable plastic. Natacare.com even states on their website that a lot of people don’t even realise “that one pack of normal sanitary pads is made from the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags! With the average woman using 17,000 pads in a life-time that adds up to the equivalent of 4,857 plastic carrier bags per woman.” Also the costs of sanitary items is very high, with the average woman spending around GBP 1700 on sanitary products in her life.

Sustainable Lifestye Consultant - Mooncups.jpg

Fortunately, there are sustainable options for sanitary items, which are not only cheaper in the long term, but are also better for the environment. One of our favourite options are menstrual cups such as “mooncups”. These are normally made out of silicone and are inserted in the vagina. In general they can collect menstruation blood for up to 12 hours. However, what we like best about the menstrual cup is that you can use them on and on. We also love the idea of period pants. These very useful knickers can hold menstruation blood of almost 4 tampons! Last but not least, we are also big fans of reusable sanitary pads, which are not only very practical but also easily washable after use as well.

As you can see, there are already many different alternatives to the conventional sanitary products such as tampons and sanitary towels. The only downside to these new excellent products is that they need access to clean water to wash them, which is unfortunately not always a given in many places in the world. Access to improved water sources has improved significanlty around the world, rising from 76 percent of the global population in 1990 to 91 percent in 2015. However organisations such as MH are still needed to not only provide better access to menstruation hygiene for woman around the world, but also to hopefully assist them for better sustainable solutions in the longterm as well.

For more information about MH Day: https://menstrualhygieneday.org

For more information on the worldwide “period poverty”: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/period-poverty-tampons-sanitary-products-campaign-a8805731.html

For more information in natracare.com: https://www.natracare.com/blog/france-bans-the-plastic-carrier-bag/

For more information on weare.tearfund.org: https://weare.tearfund.org/taboos-trash-tampons/

For more information on water and sanitation: https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-sanitation