Talking about the important things

liz watson

Imagine having your period without a toilet, water or sanitary products – something to think about on Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May). It’s a day to celebrate women, a day to talk about periods, a day to think about the billions of women in the world without a toilet and the millions without access to safe water, and the impact this has on menstrual hygiene.

“The widespread lack of access to toilets and water in the world has a devastating impact on girls and women. One in three women do not have access to a toilet during their periods and having to find a safe place to go to the toilet in the open is undignified and risky. Stigma about menstruation means women do not seek the help and information they need, while the lack of hygiene facilities in schools is a major reason for young girls dropping out of education when they reach puberty,” said WaterAid Australia Director of International Programs Rosie Wheen.

“When girls don’t have a toilet and washing facilities at school they often miss classes when they have their period and they also drop out of school. This curtails their education and the opportunity to take the first essential steps out of poverty,” said Ms Wheen.

“Every woman and girl should have access to facilities to manage her menstruation in a hygienic way, wherever she is, in privacy, safety and with dignity,” said Ms Wheen.

“In developing countries many women do not have access to sanitary products to manage their menstrual hygiene and have to use items like rags, newspaper and leaves instead. On a domestic level it is unreasonable that there is a tax on sanitary products in Australia as they are not considered a basic need,” said Ms Wheen.

“1.25 billion women around the world do not have access to a toilet during their periods. Every day 800 million women have their period, and yet often it is considered an embarrassing and taboo subject,” said Ms Wheen.

Practically every culture in the world has its own set of myths about periods. In Nigeria it is believed that a touch from a menstruating woman will cause milk to curdle, plants to die and a mirror to lose its brightness. In Nepal, the belief that menstrual bleeding makes women ‘impure’ has led many to be banned from entering their own houses or interacting with family members while menstruating.

“Women in our region are greatly impacted by lack of toilets. In Papua New Guinea over 80% of the population don’t have adequate toilets and 60% do not have access to safe water. While in Timor-Leste 60% of people do not have sanitation and 30% do not have safe water,” said Ms Wheen.

“It is hard to believe that one in three of the world’s population does not have access to adequate sanitation – that’s 2.5 billion people,” said Ms Wheen.

About WaterAid
WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water, sanitation and hygiene. The international organisation works in developing countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 21 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 18 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit: