Menstrual hygiene management: education and empowerment for girls?
This paper discusses the recent attention of the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector to resolving the menstrual hygiene crisis for young girls in developing countries. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) interventions, including the use of sanitary pads, education, and awareness, and where possible separate, sanitary toilets, are identified to have far-reaching impacts on the education and empowerment of girls. Field research conducted in Ghana's Northern Region indicates a pronounced socialized, sexualized understanding and experience of menstruation among young girls and their families, school teachers, and local NGOs. Unfortunately WASH initiatives only allow interventions to manage menstrual hygiene, leaving the young girls and others in their social settings to deal with the larger subset of sexuality issues. We argue that opening the dominant discourse of a medicalized concept of menstruation to other meanings and experiences will have significant implications for the education and empowerment of young adolescent girls.