Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
We empower the humanitarian community. Find out how we can support you...

Please note that this opportunity has now closed. Find out about our current and previous funding opportunities.

Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is an often overlooked aspect of humanitarian response. Providing safe, dignified and inclusive MHM programming will require the humanitarian sector to address a range of complex problems that no one product or service can solve.

The Problem

In an emergency setting, women and girls often lack access to adequate menstrual supplies or materials, private and safe water and toilet facilities for changing and bathing, or spaces and mechanisms for privately washing, drying or disposing of used materials (Parker et al., 2014).

All of these constraints can lead to poor MHM and significant health and psychosocial implications for women and girls including social exclusion and vulnerability (VanLeeuwen and Torondel, 2018). Lacking access to safe and private spaces to manage menstruation can also increase exposure to the risk of sexual violence and exploitation in humanitarian settings (Sommer et al., 2014).

South Sudanese refugee women carrying their newly received Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Kits, West Nile, northern Uganda. Credit: Netherlands Red Cross/IFRC

The Challenge

With nearly half of displaced populations consisting of women and girls, there is a growing urgency for the humanitarian community to better address such gender-specific needs. As part of our new strategy and ambition to be a responsive and adaptive actor in the humanitarian system, we are focusing this Challenge on tackling three elements of this systemic problem.

  • Lack of prioritisation of MHM – While MHM initiatives, tools and guidance are gradually emerging, there are still significant challenges when it comes to humanitarian practitioners implementing even basic MHM practice. There is a need for initiatives that are able to shift prevailing attitudes, behaviours and practices within the humanitarian sector and drive the importance of MHM programming.
  • Lack of acceptable MHM spaces – The recent focus on MHM programming has centred mostly around the availability of relevant menstrual materials and supplies. While this is important, it is also insufficient. Women and girls need safe and culturally-specific spaces where they can dispose of or wash and dry menstrual materials in privacy.
  • Limited MHM waste management solutions – The disposal of used menstrual materials is a growing and complex challenge as it is dependent on socio-cultural norms and taboos related to menstruation and menstrual blood, as well as on the types of menstrual materials used in an emergency. We need new, safe, discreet and environmentally-friendly solutions for managing MHM waste.


The Calls

Across all three Calls, we’re looking for innovative solutions that bring together interdisciplinary teams. We encourage applicants to think holistically about their chosen Call in the broader context of MHM programming. To facilitate this, we expect to support coordination and learning between the grantees of the three distinct Calls.

Call 1 – Shifting humanitarian norms: prioritising MHM

We’re looking for projects able to shift humanitarian practitioners’ attitudes, behaviours and practices around the importance of MHM in emergency responses and ensure the uptake of existing good practice.

Call 2 – Designing better MHM spaces

We’re looking for projects to design public and private spaces that allow women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene safely and with dignity in a humanitarian camp setting.

Call 3 – Solving MHM waste management

We’re looking for innovative and environmentally-friendly solutions for menstrual waste management in emergencies to ensure women and girls can dispose of used menstrual materials safely and with dignity.

Get the full details in the Challenge Handbook

For further information about the three Calls, as well as criteria for solutions, expected deliverables and application timelines, and a glossary of key terms, please read the Challenge Handbook.

Read now


How do I apply?

To apply for the Challenge, fill out the Expression of Interest (EOI) via our Common Grants Application platform.

Already have an account? Login to start an application.

Don’t have an account? Sign up to open an account and start an application.

Can I apply for multiple Calls?

Yes, each applicant will be allowed to apply for one, two or all three Calls in this Challenge.

However, due to the fact that each Call addresses a distinct MHM problem, applicants will be expected to complete distinct EOIs on the Common Grants Application platform. You are welcome to copy-paste between your applications where the information/narrative is the same.

What is the total funding for the Challenge?

We have a total budget of £650,000 available for this Challenge (including all three Calls).

From this, we envisage funding a selection of solutions across the three Calls with varying budgets, generally between £50,000 and £300,000 per solution, with projects lasting between 12 and 33 months. The total duration of projects should cover implementation and measurement, as well as a dissemination phase.

The proposed budgets and timelines should align with the level of ambition of each individual project. For example, we expect larger proposals to include a range of partnerships – we are particularly interested in projects that establish collaborations with local organisations.

Each solution will be assessed on its own merit and potential for impact: this means that both smaller and larger projects will be on equal footing when being evaluated.

Please note that the grant amount requested at EOI stage can be indicative. Detailed budget plans will be requested at the full proposal stage.

What are the timelines?

The Challenge launches on 23 May 2019. The deadline for expressions of interest (EOIs) is 23 June 2019 (23:59 BST). Apply via the Common Grants Application platform.

For further information about the application process and timelines, see Challenge Handbook.

Who can apply?

We welcome applications from any legally registered entity (eg, INGO, NGO, UN, academic, private company). Successful applicants must work in partnership with a humanitarian actor. Any partnerships can be indicative at the Expression of Interest (EOI) stage but must be formalised when your full application is submitted if your proposal is shortlisted.

For further information about requirements and success criteria, see Challenge Handbook.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. For any questions that are not covered by the Challenge Handbook or FAQ section, please email us at, referencing ‘MHM Challenge’ in the subject line.

Helpful Tools & Research

Tool Innovation Management

Humanitarian Innovation Guide

Tool COVID-19, Water, sanitation & hygiene

WASH Innovation Catalogue

Report Water, sanitation & hygiene

Gap Analysis in Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion

Projects funding through this Innovation Challenge

Discover more funding

Take a look at our other WASH Innovation Challenge: Exploring the barriers to inclusion faced by people living with incontinence.

Read more

Subscribe to our newsletters....

Elrha © 2018 - 2024 Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110). KEEP IN TOUCH Want to stay up to date with our latest updates? Sign up to our newsletters
Elrha Please upgrade your browser

You are seeing this because you are using a browser that is not supported. The Elrha website is built using modern technology and standards. We recommend upgrading your browser with one of the following to properly view our website:

Windows Mac

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of browsers. We also do not intend to recommend a particular manufacturer's browser over another's; only to suggest upgrading to a browser version that is compliant with current standards to give you the best and most secure browsing experience.