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What humanitarian need is being addressed?

This project will trial education workshops alongside three sustainable products with women in Bangladesh: menstrual underwear, a wash bag and a dry bag.

Using disposable products is a challenge, as it is dependent on safe spaces to dispose of products discreetly. Disposal is also shaped by socio-cultural norms and taboos related to
menstruation and touching menstrual blood.

Women have reported washing undergarments on the latrine floor, or drying undergarments in dark, damp, and mouldy conditions due to social stigma and/or lack of space to hang washing privately. Women are reporting high rates of infection; one study* reported 73% of Bangladeshi factory workers missed an average of six days of work per month (resulting in unpaid days) due to infections caused by unhygienic menstrual cloth or rags.

The long neglected area of menstrual health must be addressed. There is an urgent need to find innovative and culturally appropriate solutions that are able to improve health outcomes, gender disparities, and address the environmental burden of current MHM practices.

*George, Rose. Celebrating Womanhood: How better menstrual hygiene management is the
path to better health, dignity and business. Geneva: Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative
Council, 2013, 10.

What is the innovative solution and how will it improve existing humanitarian practice?

The solution is to trial education workshops alongside three sustainable products; menstrual underwear, a wash bag and a dry bag.

Alongside these products, an educational tool will be developed that focuses on health, menstruation, and health stigmas.

The underwear consists of multiple layers including a self-sterilising smart technology layer, multiple absorbent layers, and a leak-proof layer. This product is designed to be reusable, easily washable, and odour-neutralising.

The wash and dry bags ensure undergarments remain hygienic through avoiding contact with the latrine floor. This results in less risk of faecal contamination and mould exposure, as well as allowing undergarments to dry quickly. All solutions emphasize zero-waste, and culturally appropriate and discreet design – with the potential to enable users to wash and dry undergarments more freely.

This project seeks to better enable women and girls to manage menstrual hygiene with confidence and dignity.

What are the expected outcomes?

This project aims to achieve several outputs and outcomes.

Firstly, to increase uptake in safe, hygienic and sustainable ways of managing menstrual hygiene.

As a result of this project, the team expects to see a direct, positive impact on the health of women and their surrounding community through:

  • Less menstrual waste in the environment
  • Less reported rates of serious infection and unsafe hygiene practices
  • Increased health knowledge and confidence
  • Reduced stigma.

The project also aims to understand users and their context through:

  • Needs assessments
  • Trialling of products
  • Discussion groups
  • User feedback
  • Iterating products.

Further aims of this project are:

  • To specifically increase understanding around socio-cultural norms and barriers to safe and effective menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and waste solutions.
  • To create opportunities for sharing evidence and recommendations with humanitarian actors around MHM and waste solutions.
  • To work collaboratively across the sector and publish a peer-reviewed article.
Garment workers participating in a educational session with Change Associates. Photo credit: Reemi

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