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LETTER: Menstruation matters

May 28th is World Menstrual Hygiene Day

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Menstrual hygiene is a public health, gender equality, and human rights issue that women continue to face stigma, exclusion, and discrimination against, especially in developing countries where mindsets, customs, and institutional biases prevent women from receiving the menstrual health care they need.

Menstruation is a natural and healthy biological process for women, but it is still considered a taboo in some parts of society. Women and girls are more likely to lack access to adequate facilities, face exclusion or vulnerability, and face greater health risks when they lack adequate access to water and sanitation while also suffering from poverty, a disability, incontinence, living in remote areas, lack security, or are homeless.

Even today, cultural and social influences on people present a significant barrier to educating adolescent girls about menstrual hygiene. It is unacceptable that women and girls are still barred from obtaining an education, earning a living, and fully and equally participating in daily life due to a natural bodily function.

While Menstrual Hygiene Day is on May 28, our team and partners work to promote menstrual hygiene throughout the year. Break down the barriers and remove the stigma associated with menstruation. Raise awareness about the barriers to accessing menstrual products, menstrual education, and period-friendly sanitation facilities. Raise the necessary funds for large-scale action. All of this contributes to our overarching goal of no one being held back because they menstruate by 2030.

We are now shifting from calling for action to leading by example by committing to action to catalyze progress at the United Nations, UNICEF, and Wash United. Organizations all over the world will begin publicly announcing what they are committed to contributing to the creation of a world in which no one is held back because they menstruate by 2030, using the hashtag #WeAreCommitted.

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By making public commitments, we will increase transparency, lay the groundwork for accountability, and encourage others to follow suit.

We celebrate and acknowledge that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and not all women menstruate. Let us fight the stigma together by ensuring that every woman who menstruates has access to sanitary products and clean water, as well as ensuring the dignity of girls and women around the world.

Barbara Augustino Aremo is a public health major at North Dakota State University and a member of the United Nations and Wash United, both of which advocate for menstrual hygiene.

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