Menstrual hygiene management in schools in South Asia - 2021

Menstrual hygiene
Image: WaterAid/Srishti Bhardwaj

A new report from WaterAid and UNICEF highlights the status of menstrual hygiene in schools in South Asia in 2021. Accompanied by eight new country snapshots, the report provides an update on the first synthesis report in 2018, recognises the progress made in implementing effective water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes in schools, and highlights the critical gaps that remain.

This report, jointly produced by WaterAid and UNICEF Regional Office South Asia, describes the context for menstrual hygiene in schools and the implementation of menstrual hygiene services. It identifies progress and gaps in achieving sustainable and inclusive menstrual hygiene services in schools at scale, and draws together opportunities for further promoting and mainstreaming menstrual hygiene in schools in South Asia. The report also includes a special focus on the implications for ensuring menstrual hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This summary is accompanied by eight new country snapshots that provide a brief overview of the status of menstrual hygiene in schools in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to support improved coordination and to guide priority actions at national level. The 2018-2020 country snapshots reveal that, across the region, significant experience has been gained in implementing effective water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes in schools. Progress in the region includes:

  • integrating menstrual hygiene into national policies
  • costed plans and strategies
  • active multi-stakeholder coalitions and alliances
  • advocacy influencing menstrual hygiene decision-making (including VAT removal on pads)
  • menstrual hygiene studies and research.

A number of resources and guidance has also been produced including menstrual hygiene books, guidelines and toolkits, training for teachers, affordable and accessible menstrual materials, and improved WASH facilities in schools. 

But despite progress, critical gaps remain, including monitoring, maintenance of WASH facilities in schools, access to affordable and good quality menstrual materials, ensuring girls have social support at home as well as school, and reaching those who have been marginalised with menstrual hygiene initiatives.

The report identifies several opportunities to expand action on menstrual hygiene in the region through coordinating across sectors at different levels, increasing engagement with young people, and developing technical options for disposal and waste management.

Top image: Seema, an EFRAH volunteer, showcases a sanitary napkin during a session on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in New Delhi, India. March 2020