Research network

East and Southern Africa Menstrual Health Research Network

The East and Southern African Menstrual Health (EAS MH) Research Network is a group of individuals, institutions and organisations working on MH research in ESA. The lack of standardised indicators or tools for data collection for MH is a barrier for funders and decision-makers to implement evidence-based policies that effectively address MH issues.The Network was initiated to address this by supporting rigorous evidence and strengthening research capacity on MH in the region. 


To improve communication, connection and collaboration between MH researchers in East and Southern Africa, North America, and Europe.


  1. To collaborate, connect, and support MH researchers and practitioners in East and Southern Africa with those based in Europe and North America;
  2. To support early career researchers and practitioners;
  3. To identify priority MH research questions for East and Southern Africa;
  4. To support capacity-strengthening on MH research;
  5. To work collaboratively with partners working on MH in the region, including advising on research infrastructure needed for M&E and joint publication;
  6. To initiate public engagement activities relating to  MH;
  7. To jointly apply for MH-related grants for multi-centre studies and intervention.


Organisational Structure

Background and activities

MH has gained increased attention on the global development agenda as a result of evidence that demonstrates that poor MH negatively impacts girls’ education, health, and well-being. Menstruation operates as a neglected social determinant of sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes, often caused by a lack of knowledge, stigma, and negative social norms. This can critically impact the life course of girls and young women and contributes to the cycle of early pregnancy and marriage, as well as, poor educational attainment and population health outcomes.

Despite this, good MH remains a neglected component of girls’ and womens health agendas of national/government and development agencies, and there is a lack of evidence on which to base policy.  This evidence-gap causes significant challenges in developing effective programming that responds to the menstrual needs of girls and women worldwide.

The East African MH Research Network was initiated in November 2017, and expanded in September 2018 with a seed grant from the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The network now includes Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, making it the East and Southern African MH Research Network.

Network members are currently focusing on 4 key MH research themes through capacity strengthening, in line with the current seed money grant award:

      • Measuring wellbeing through standardised monitoring and evaluation programme & outcome measures;
      • Understanding and working with marginalized and vulnerable groups and their communities;
      • Developing educational materials, tools, guidelines and joint publication;
      • Ethics relating to MH research in adolescent girls in East/Southern Africa.


  1. Sharing of protocols, tools and research methodologies;
  2. Physical networking meetings to disseminate research findings and share plans.
  3. Engage country specific MH sub-networks to garner input from each national level perspective
  4. Joint application for grants

Steering Committee:

Afua Twum-Danso Imoh, Sheffield University

Emily Wilson-Smith, Irise International, UK and  University of Sheffield, UK.

Clare Tandon, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Helen Weiss, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

John Ssendagire, Makerere University

Mandu Reid, The Cup Effect, UK, Malawi, Kenya

Marni Summer, Columbia University

Penelope Phillips-Howard, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Rashida Ferrand,  Biomedical Research and Training Institute

Sarah Harman, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


The Steering Committee is responsible to:

  1. Provide oversight and direction for the network
  2. Ensure the network remains on track to meet its deliverables
  3. Review tools developed for the networks deliverables
  4. Review the plans for the four topic-related working groups
  5. Develop the agendas for the network meetings in Zimbabwe and UK
  6. Review/comment on core network members research plans (as relevant) and assist in identifying means of addressing training needs of core partners


Partners and Key Researchers:

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), with Elizabeth Nyothach as the lead representative. KEMRI generates evidence-based multidisciplinary research to inform the government on Kenyas health needs and policy formulation.  Ms Nyothach has a MA in Project Planning and Management, and was the programme manager for the Menstrual Solutions pilot study exploring the acceptability use and impact of cups or pads against controls in primary schoolgirls in Kenya. She is currently Trial Manager of the MRC/DfID/WT-funded Cups or Cash for Girls Trial (PI: Phillips-Howard). She is interested in ethical issues arising from MHM-related research. She is co-leading this working group, and will host the other country leads on their visit to Kenya. Dr Phillips-Howard and team are embedded within KEMRI to provide scientific support for MH-related field studies.

Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research  Institute and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Uganda Research Unit (MRC/UVRI and LSHTM), with Dr Catherine Kansiime as the lead representative. Dr Kansiime is project lead for the MRC-funded MENISCUS-2 school-based MHM intervention assessing the association of MHM with school absenteeism in 2 secondary schools (PI: Weiss). Dr Kansiime led the dissemination workshop for MENISCUS-2 in Uganda and is co-leading the working group on developing educational materials. With Prof Weiss, Dr Kansiime is applying for funds for a school-based CRT of MHM in Uganda, building on the MENISCUS-2 study.

Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) with Mandi Tembo, a Zimbabwean PhD student with LSHTM, as the lead representative. Tembo’s PhD study is assessing the acceptability, uptake, and effectiveness of a comprehensive MHM intervention, providing MHM education, products, analgesics, nested within a larger, community-based sexual and reproductive health trial in Zimbabwe (PI: Ferrand).  Tembo co-leads the working group on working with vulnerable groups.

National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), the Mwanza Intervention Trials Unit, with Elialilia Sarikiaeli-Okello, a senior social scientist at NIMR, Mwanza Tanzania, as the lead representative. Okello is currently involved in the analysis and publication of research studies that have been completed under SHARE including the Mikono Safi Study in Kagera, Northwest Tanzania and the Women Sanitation vulnerabilities in Iringa, Southern Tanzania. She is also working on the preparation of new studies related to WASH particularly menstruation hygiene management in primary schools.


Team of Collaborators on the network:

  • Afua Twum-Danso Imoh: The University of Sheffield, UK. Expertise in the sociology of childhood and children’s human rights.
  • Anja Tolonen: Columbia University, USA: Expertise in cost-effectiveness.
  • Belen Torondel: LSHTM, UK. Expertise in MHM and WASH.
  • Catherine Kansiime: MRC/UVRI and LSHTM, Uganda. Expertise in school-based MHM interventions.
  • Catherine Sassy Molineux: KEMRI, Kenya. Expertise in ethics and community engagement.
  • Clare Tanton: LSHTM, UK. Expertise in sexual & reproductive health research ethics.
  • Dani Barrington: University of Leeds, UK. Expertise in water, sanitation and health
  • Elizabeth Nyothach: KEMRI, Kenya. Expertise in Qualitative Social Research.
  • Elialilia Sarikiaeli-Okello: NIMR, Tanzania. Expertise in women’s health, sanitation, and school-based MHM.
  • Emily Wilson-Smith: Director Irise International, UK; Honorary RF, University of Sheffield, UK. Expertise in menstrual health programming in East Africa.
  • Ernestie Paterson: TheButterflyCup, Zimbabwe.
  • Hazel Barrett: The University of Coventry, UK. Expertise in behavior change.
  • Helen Weiss: Professor of Epidemiology at LSHTM. Expertise in HIV and mental health in DAC countries, with a focus on adolescence.
  • Jennifer Rubli: Femme International, Tanzania and Kenya. Expertise in menstrual health programming and M&E in East Africa.
  • Jenny Renju: LSHTM & KCMUCo, Tanzania. Expertise in adolescent and sexual health.
  • Julie Hennegan: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA: Expertise in women’s health and MHM.
  • Laura Hytti: WoMena, Uganda.
  • Lynn Atuyambe: Makerere University School of Public Health, Uganda. Expertise in adolescent health.
  • Mandu Reid:  Founder, The Cup Effect, UK (with projects in Malawi and Kenya). Expertise in Social Policy, programme implementation, strategy development, and advocacy.
  • Mandi Tembo: junior Zimbabwean researcher and PhD Candidate at BRTI, Zimbabwe, with experience working with adolescents on sexual and reproductive health in southern Africa
  • Marni Sommer: Columbia University, USA. Co-founder of MHM in Ten initiative. Expertise in menstruation, gender, education and health.
  • Nakalema Shamira: WoMena Uganda. Expertise in MHM interventions, adolescents health, well-being and community mobilisation/engagement.
  • Penelope Phillips-Howard: LSTM, UK. Reader and public health epidemiologist; PI of the MRC/WT/DfID funded pilot and current Cups or Cash cluster randomised controlled trial, western Kenya.
  • Rashida Ferrand: Professor of International Health at Biomedical Research Training Institute. Expertise on interventions to improve adolescent health.
  • Sarah Harman: LSHTM, UK. Research Programme Manager for the MRC Tropical Epidemiology Group. Expertise in HIV and Mental Health.
  • Ssendagire John: Academic (Lecturer) at the School of Distance and Lifelong Learning, Makerere University. Expertise in participatory action and longitudinal research in adolescents’ well-being, sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Suzanna Francis: LSHTM, UK. PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology. Expertise on the prevention and control of reproductive tract infections (including HIV), particular focus on adolescents/young women and sex worker populations

Contact us

For further information or questions, please contact our Network Co-ordinator:

Catherine Kansiime, MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Ugandan Research Unit in Uganda,