Our latest research - looking at menstrual health, and cultural stigmas
associated with women's health in South Asia.
ABOUT THE RESEARCH
We have partnered with University of Munich (LMU) to conduct research for Menstrual Health Management (MHM) in Bangladesh. Our research is funded and supported by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) programme, which improves outcomes for people affected by humanitarian crises through innovative and scalable solutions.
Our context is working with garment workers, as we know there is a high need for access to menstrual products and our desire to work alongside the apparel industry. In the future, we would love to explore humanitarian contexts that have similar needs and have already begun many conversations.
WHAT’S THE RESEARCH
Our research will trial education workshops alongside three sustainable products with women in Bangladesh: menstrual underwear, a wash bag and a dry bag. Alongside these products, an educational tool will be developed that focuses on health, menstruation, and health stigmas.
We want to know how effective the new period products we have developed are. Secondly, we are measuring ways to communicate about menstrual health and see if they lead to better health outcomes.
Using disposable products is a challenge, as it is dependent on safe spaces to dispose of products discreetly. Disposal is also shaped by socio-cultural norms and taboos related to menstruation and touching menstrual blood.
Women have reported washing undergarments on the latrine floor, or drying undergarments in dark, damp, and mouldy conditions due to social stigma and/or lack of space to hang washing privately. Women are reporting high rates of infection; one study* reported 73% of Bangladeshi factory workers missed an average of six days of work per month (resulting in unpaid days) due to infections caused by unhygienic menstrual cloth or rags.
We’ve seen that the long neglected area of menstrual health must be addressed. There is an urgent need to find innovative and culturally appropriate solutions that are able to improve health outcomes, gender disparities, and address the environmental burden of current MHM practices.
ABOUT THE SOLUTIONS
The underwear consists of multiple layers including a self-sterilising smart technology layer, multiple absorbent layers, and a leak-proof layer. This product is designed to be reusable, easily washable, and odour-neutralising.
The wash and dry bags ensure undergarments remain hygienic through avoiding contact with the latrine floor. This results in less risk of faecal contamination and mould exposure, as well as allowing undergarments to dry quickly. All solutions emphasise zero-waste, and culturally appropriate and discreet design – with the potential to enable users to wash and dry undergarments more freely.
This project seeks to better enable women and girls to manage menstrual health with confidence and dignity.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED OUTCOMES?
This project aims to achieve several outputs and outcomes, including to increase the uptake in safe, hygienic and sustainable ways of managing menstrual health.
As a result of this project, the team expects to see a direct, positive impact on the health of women and their surrounding community through:
Further aims of this project include:
To increase understanding around effective menstrual health management (MHM) and waste solutions.
To create opportunities for sharing evidence and recommendations with humanitarian actors around MHM and waste solutions.
To work collaboratively across the sector.
We want to acknowledge the wonderful people working alongside us!
Silvia Castro and Clarissa Kayser, PhD students at the University of Munich (LMU)
Nevada Leckie, Product Design Consultant
Humanitarian Innovation Fund for ELRHA
Hoplun Bangladesh and Hong Kong
*George, Rose. Celebrating Womanhood: How better menstrual hygiene management is the path to better health, dignity and business. Geneva: Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, 2013, 10.