We all know menstruation isn’t just a hygiene and sanitation issue. But, community-led total sanitation (CLTS) does show promise as one approach to breaking the silence around this taboo, as I learned this past Thursday in a webinar hosted by the CLTS Knowledge Hub and the Institute of Development studies.
CLTS initiatives that openly discuss MHM issues validate the needs of girls and women as being equally important as those of boys and men. In so doing, CLTS efforts create opportunities to destigmatize and normalize menstruation for the physiological phenomenon that it is. Not only can the CLTS process get the conversation started, but CLTS activities can also help establish new positive norms by challenging boys and men to reflect upon what they can do to help girls and women during menstruation or simply making menstruation a less embarrassing topic of conversation.
Addressing menstruation may help increase the participation of girls and women in CLTS efforts, as they are the experts on the subject. Incorporating the voices of girls and women may, for example, help ensure that the design and construction of latrines is attuned to MHM needs. And, as girls and women gain confidence to speak up about MHM issues, they may become empowered to voice their opinions on other topics.
Whether you’re leading a CLTS process or other MHM activities, it’s critical to identify the needs of and reach marginalized and vulnerable populations such as individuals with disabilities, out-of-school girls, low-income populations, rural residents, the homeless, and the prison population. They, too, have the right to the knowledge, skills, and tools to be able to manage their menstruation with dignity.