Integrated approaches to menstrual health: programming insights from Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste, girls line up for anaemia testing as part of a school WASH and SRHR programme in partnership with Marie Stopes International WaterAid/Alex Parsaribu

Over four years, WaterAid and Marie Stopes International Australia worked together to deliver improve menstrual health, and increase awareness and uptake of sexual and reproductive health and WASH services in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. This learning note shares key findings of an independent evaluation into the programme, and makes six recommendations to inform quality menstrual health practice.

Globally, the largest generation of girls in history are entering their reproductive years. Managing reproductive health while in school, however, is a challenge for many. Women and girls in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea (PNG), experience challenges in managing menstruation effectively and hygienically. Marie Stopes International Australia (MSIA) and WaterAid worked in partnership to deliver a holistic approach to improve menstrual health, and to increase awareness and uptake of sexual and reproductive health and WASH services in these countries. The ‘Keeping Girls in School Through Improved Reproductive and Menstrual Health’ project was delivered over four years (2017 - 2021) and was funded through the Australian NGO Gender Action Platform.

GAP project infographic

This paper shares key findings of an independent exploratory evaluation undertaken in late 2020, using in-depth interviews with stakeholders and programme data. Across the three program objectives, MSIA and WaterAid supported more than 57,000 girls, boys and adults to have increased access to WASH and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights information, facilities, and family planning services. More than 12,500 women and girls are using their choice of contraception and more than 3,000 students are accessing girl-friendly WASH facilities in schools across Timor-Leste and PNG.  

The evaluation captures insights and learning from a cross-sectoral partnership on menstrual health and makes six recommendations to inform quality menstrual health practice:

  • Menstrual health solutions should always be integrated and holistic 
  • Holistic menstrual health solutions require increased investment to be effective
  • Private sector investments and social enterprises are part of the solution to scaling up menstrual health 
  • Comprehensive sexuality education should be part of all curricula and expanded to older high school students 
  • Develop, pilot and document menstrual health indicators to measure outcomes 
  • Civil society organisations, partners and government ministries must continue collaboration towards shared goals to improve menstrual health 
     

Top image: In Timor-Leste, girls line up for anaemia testing as part of a school WASH and SRHR programme in partnership with Marie Stopes International