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The Bangladesh National Hygiene Survey 2018 found that only six percent of schools in the country provide education on Menstrual Health Management (MHM). In the remaining schools, teachers deliberately avoid discussing the topic, often advising students- “Read this at home!”. The survey also reported that only fifty-three percent of schoolgirls are aware of menstruation. This means that about forty-seven percent of students do not know about menstruation until their first period and those who do often receive inaccurate information, perpetuating superstitions rather than facts.

Survey results consistently indicate poor Menstrual Health Management (MHM) among adolescents, both in urban and rural areas. A baseline study by WaterAid Bangladesh in 2008 found that ninety-five percent of women in Dhaka’s slums used cloth during menstruation. Ten years later, on Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018, a Prothom Alo report indicated that approximately forty-five million girls and women in the country still use clothes during menstruation. Many reuse the same cloth multiple times, often without proper sanitation. Only ten percent of teenage girls and twenty-five percent of older women use sanitary napkins or sanitary pads. Factors such as the high cost of pads, their unavailability, and lack of awareness contribute to this issue, yet little has been done to address it.

When there is a lack of awareness about menstrual health and inadequate washroom facilities in city schools or slums, the situation for women in more marginalized communities is even more dire. For instance, how can women tea workers who work eight hours a day or the Bede community living on boats, who lack proper Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities, follow any hygiene rules during menstruation?

Menstruation remains a social taboo in many countries, including Bangladesh. Consequently, women face health issues such as cervical cancer, infections, genital sores, itching, and abnormal white discharge. According to a 2023 report by the Daily Star, about twelve thousand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in the country. Improving Menstrual Health Management (MHM) and providing proper education are essential steps towards breaking this taboo and ensuring better health outcomes for women.







This post is written by Faria Rahman, a team member of Uncharted Red Waters project.