Menstruation Matters


Menstruation can be a life-restricting monthly event for women & girls across the world and negatively impact on daily activities and self esteem. We are working across countries to empower and educate communities to feel positively about their periods and not be held back from educational and work opportunities.

Menstrual health is fundamental to advancing human rights, education and gender equality


Sanitary pads are very hard to buy because the economy is high. Mum cannot give you the money to buy. Not everybody can even get enough money to buy a cotton wool or tissue paper and using a cloth we always fear because it may fall off while with friends.

— Anonymous (15 years old, Kasese, Uganda)

The Challenges

1. Millions of girls living in countries like Uganda skip up to 20% of the school year simply because they cannot afford to buy mainstream sanitary products when they menstruate.

2. 25% of girls and women in rural Uganda use traditional materials like cloth or paper or tissue, with 10% of girls under 15 years of age depending on makeshift items. 

3. Ugandan schoolgirls reported concerns around safe disposal of products, believing that witch doctors could place curses using their menstrual blood.

4. On average, Ugandan schoolgirls reported missing 24 days out of 220 learning days in a year; translating into 11% of school days missed due to menstruation.

5. In Western parts of Uganda country cattle owners do not let menstruating women attend to their cows, for fear that the milk may turn bloody.

6. Lack of appropriate products is one of the principle reasons that girls do not attend school during their period in Uganda.

7. Over half of Ugandan schoolgirls asked stated that the lack of anywhere to wash or change was affecting their school attendance.

8. A supply of sanitary pads for one girl in Uganda cost one tenth of the family income – a ‘luxury’ most families cannot afford.

9. A study of rural Ugandan females revealed that 2/3 of pad users received the item from sexual partners; receipt was lower among women with violent partners, and 10% of 15 year olds reported engaging in sex for money to buy pads.


References:1) 2) + 9) Phillips-Howard PA, et al. (2015) Menstrual Needs and Associations with Sexual and Reproductive Risks in Rural Kenyan Females: A Cross-Sectional Behavioral Survey Linked with HIV Prevalence. J Womens Health. (10):801-11. 3) Crofts, T. & Fisher, J. (2012) Menstrual Hygiene in Ugandan schools: An Investigation of Low-cost Sanitary Pads. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. 2 (1), 50-58. 4) Study on menstrual management in Uganda. The Netherlands Development Organization (SNV)/IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. 5) Ten, V. T. A. (2007) Menstrual Hygiene : A Neglected Condition for the Achievement of Several Millennium Development Goals. Europe External Policy Advisors. 6) Crofts, T. & Fisher, J. (2012) Menstrual Hygiene in Ugandan schools: An Investigation of Low-cost Sanitary Pads. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. 7) Irise 2013 – An Assessment of Menstrual Hygiene Practices and Absenteeism in Western Uganda. 8) Averbach, S. et al. (2009) Duet for menstrual protection: a feasibility study in Zimbabwe. Contraception. 79 (6), 463–468.

Use these facts to start a conversation about menstruation.

The Queen of Katwe interview by Nicole Rafiki

“I hate menstruation because I have to miss school during those days and I love my school. There are no facilities where I can change and dispose menstrual waste which is why my mother always makes me stay home.”

— Kishori (Bettiah, India)

Support menstrual health education and advocacy in Uganda by becoming a WoMena member.


The Good News

1. Sustainable solutions to menstrual management such as menstrual cups are proving to be successful for young women in Uganda; the majority of a pilot study group found Ruby Cup to be an acceptable alternative to what they currently use.

2. Girls reported feeling more ‘happy and comfortable’ whilst menstruating after using reusable sanitary pads and learning about menstrual health at school.

3. A Ghanian study found that girls’ attendance increased substantially after receiving free sanitary pads and puberty education.

4. Many NGOs & social businesses are making enormous progress on delivering menstrual health education, like designing fun and games-based curricula that engages both boys and girls.

References: 1) Tellier M, Hyttel M, Gad M (2012). Pilot study report, WoMena Ltd: Assessing acceptability and hygienic safety of menstrual cups as menstrual management method for vulnerable young women in Uganda Red Cross Society’s LifePlanning Skills Project. Kampala, Uganda. 2) Irise International (2012) INSPIRES : INvestigating a reusable Sanitary Pad Intervention in a Rural Educational Setting Pilot Study : Evaluating the acceptability and short [online]. Available from: http:// 3) Montgomery et al., Sanitary Pad Interventions for Girls’ Education in Ghana, 2012. 4) See

Reasons to use a menstrual cup

    • Economy — Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years. However, some brands recommend to replace menstrual cups each year. The initial cost for a cup is higher than for traditional hygiene device, but the cost is absorbed with each consecutive use.
    • Environmental consciousness — With reusable cups, only menstrual blood is disposed of and there is nothing to be thrown away, which contributes to less landfill. The cotton used for most major brands of tampons and pads is also bleached, which is seen as harmful to the environment and leaves traces of dioxin in the cotton, which may be a carcinogen. As well, cotton itself is a very environmentally destructive crop as it uses more chemicals per acre than almost any other crop, as well as vast quantities of water.
    • Portability — When traveling, the user can choose to carry only a single reusable menstrual cup, rather than multiple pads or tampons. However, some menstrual cup users use a form of back-up protection, such as pads, in addition to their cup.
    • Comfort — As the menstrual cup is worn entirely within the body, it avoids the bulky or damp feeling of pads. It avoids the string of tampons, which may get wet after urination. Additionally, cups avoid the issue of over-absorption and dryness that tampons may cause. Cups can be worn before menstruation begins, which may appeal to women with irregular cycles.
    • Convenience — Menstrual cups can hold more liquid than tampons for heavy flow, which may allow less frequent trips to the bathroom

The SDGs