Water crucial to menstrual hygiene, NGO highlights

Guests during the World Water Day celebrations panel discussions at the Tasty Trails at Ratu Sukuna Road in Suva on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Water is a basic human need. For women, it is crucial in maintaining menstrual hygiene and empowering them to continue with their daily lives as normal, even as they undergo their periods.

For Ana Fofole, the national WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) co-ordinator for Medical Services Pacific (MSP), this aspect is an important part of her work in the community.

Ms Fofole’s organisation focuses on sexual reproductive health and menstrual hygiene.

“We should all know that menstrual hygiene is essential not only to the health and the wellbeing, but also the empowerment of young adolescent girls and women,” she said.

“MSP works closely with communities in hard-to-reach geographical locations and schools targeting young girls in the sense of trying to help and assist with issues which arise when a young woman begins her menstrual cycle.

“A menstrual cycle is something that a young adolescent girl undergoes. The woman or young girl, the next time it will stop, is when she will reach menopausal stage.

“That is why it is very important to know how it connects with water, and proper sanitation facilities. We may have toilets around communities, public places, but is it menstrual hygiene friendly?

“I would like to take this time to take us closely to the work around menstrual hygiene with regards to water. Menstrual hygiene management will only be effective if water is available and also proper sanitation facilities, for safety and dignity of women.

“Those are the important things that should be in place in order to help our young girls and women reaching out and progressing in life.”

She said women and girls needed to feel comfortable whether they were in school, their communities, homes, or even at work. Ms Fofole said this was important for women to feel “as normal as possible”.

“They do not feel any different. So that is why it is very important.

“When we work in rural areas, what we usually do is provide awareness and education, but this is something I believe we should work hand in hand, it is also a holistic approach.

“If you want to address menstrual health and hygiene in the community and as for us, we feel that providing education along in homes does not suffice.

“Providing education together with water, accessibility of water and proper sanitation facility, that will provide for menstrual health hygiene in a holistic manner.

“We should know that when we undergo menstruation, we encourage change of sanitary pads during a day and without availability of water, this would not be possible for young girls attending school and women doing well at work.”

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