Sharing experiences and advocating for improved MHM action in emergencies

IFRC's project aims to improve actions to address the menstrual hygiene needs of women and girls in humanitarian contexts. Evidence-based lessons and resources from operational research in East Africa on innovative ‘MHM kits’, along with other IFRC experiences, will be consolidated and disseminated globally. Strong advocacy and practical tools and guidance will lead to improved awareness of decision makers, and increased commitment and resources to enable effective and accountable MHM action.

IFRC is continuing to advocate for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene in every humanitarian response. Women and girls have menstrual hygiene needs from day 1 of any crisis – and these needs continue with every month that passes.

What have we achieved in recent months?

a) Global MHM workshop held with more than 40 participants

IFRC and the Lebanese Red Cross hosted a global Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) workshop in Beirut from 22nd to 24th October. There were 35 participants from 22 National Societies and IFRC, as well as 8 external partners (Colombia University, WASH United, The Case For Her, AfriPads, Oxfam, PSI, CBM and UNHCR).

It was the first time that WASH, Health and PGI (Protection, Gender and Inclusion) had all come together to share experiences and lessons in MHM, both in humanitarian and longer-term programming. IFRC’s new MHM guide and tools were launched at the workshop, along with a number of other resources (see below).

Key actions identified by participants for continuing momentum after the workshop include:

  • Explain to 3 other staff from your National Society what MHM is and share with them the resources from the workshop (50% of participants)
  • Train and build capacity of staff and volunteers in MHM (45% of participants)
  • Make use of long-term Health/WASH programmes to strengthen MHM activities (as well as to be better prepared for emergencies) (36% of participants)
  • Contextualise/translate MHM tools and materials (including information, education and communication) (27% of participants)
  • In your National Society, revise M&E tools to include MHM, gender and disability (27% of participants)

Feedback from the workshop evaluation was positive:

  • 75% of participants responded that the workshop has been ‘very useful’ for their work
  • 83% of participants responded ‘very likely’ that they will transfer what they have learnt to their work

b) Case study published with key results and lessons from MHM operational research from East Africa

Between 2012 and 2016, IFRC conducted operational research in Burundi, Uganda, Somaliland and Madagascar which aimed to better understand the challenges women and girls face with menstruation in humanitarian contexts, and to generate evidence on MHM kits.

Results showed improvements in dignity, health and knowledge after the distribution of MHM kits and promotion of menstrual hygiene. Findings highlighted the importance of appropriate facilities, including safe and private spaces for maintaining hygiene and washing, changing and drying pads.

A case study has been published which outlines the operational research process, key results from each country and recommendations for MHM in emergency programming.

c) Second MHM video launched

A second video for advocacy and training on MHM was launched at the global MHM workshop. (Watch the video here).

The video outlines the challenges that women and girls face, including lack of information, cultural taboos or restrictions, embarrassment, anxiety and a lack of private, safe facilities to manage their menstruation. Actions that are needed to effectively respond to these challenges and menstrual hygiene needs are also included.

What’s next?

Although the HIF project is coming to an end, IFRC is committed to keeping the momentum going for MHM and are planning to continue scaling up, disseminating and building capacity with support of a number of partners in 2019 and beyond.

The pilot version of IFRC’s MHM Guidelines and Tools will be trialled by National Societies in 3 ongoing emergency operations, as well as in regional and global trainings. Feedback from these ‘real-life’ experiences using the tools and guide will be collected and a final version completed by mid-2019.

The recently developed checklists for female-friendly latrines, bathing areas and solid waste management facilities will start to be rolled-out across emergency operations (and longer-term development programming). One aim is to use the checklists as a monitoring tool to measure progress and improvement in facilities, including how well the needs of women and girls are being met.

Pilot operational research using Cash (vouchers or grants) for menstrual hygiene is in the pipeline for 2019, to begin to collect evidence and best practices in this area. Using Cash for MHM may give women and girls more choice, can support local markets and ensure that women and girls have timely, efficient and appropriate support.

And finally, the global MHM Community of Practice (CoP) continues to be an active platform for sharing resources and experiences between many internal and external partners. The CoP is a great way to connect with other MHM practitioners all over the world. Everyone is welcome to join!

The IFRC team looks forward to continuing to work together to improve the dignity and health of women and girls in humanitarian contexts – let’s keep the momentum for MHM going!

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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