Period Talks: Pandemic and Beyond

Poor menstrual health and hygiene usually is caused by lack of awareness, persisting social taboos, limited access to hygienic products and poor sanitation. Affordable and accessible infrastructure and facilities also undermine the opportunities to manage healthy period practices – which is a challenge for millions of women and girls around the world.

In Bangladesh, lack of facilities, predominant social barriers, access to safe and secure services for both urban and rural communities make it difficult for women and girls to manage their everyday WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) needs, let alone menstruation needs.


In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as countries have been forced into lockdown to fight the spread of the virus, women and girls across the globe are facing increasing struggles to access improved sanitary products and facilities they need to manage their periods safely and with dignity. The crisis has exposed and exacerbated gender inequalities and increasing menstrual health and water and sanitation provisions are now needed as long-term responses to the outbreak.

In Bangladesh, inadequate WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, particularly in public places such as in markets, schools, workplaces or health centers, pose a major obstacle during COVID-19. The lack of separate toilets with doors that can be secured, or the unavailability of means to dispose of used sanitary pads, water to wash hands or sanitary cloth, and ventilation to air dry the cloth make it difficult for women and girls to manage their periods privately, safely and in a dignified manner – both in urban and rural areas.


No national strategy yet to ensure menstrual hygiene


Bangladesh is yet to ensure menstrual hygiene and without an integrated plan it has nurtured the crisis to prolong, experts said.

Lack of strategy and loopholes in ensuring accountability are to be blamed for the delay.

Read More…

Menstrual hygiene in times of the pandemic

The government, as it is putting all of its resources in the fight against coronavirus, has done little to provide essential menstrual hygiene products and services to women and adolescent girls across Bangladesh

Read More…

The challenge menstruating girls and women face is often less tangible than simply the availability of infrastructure; sometimes it is rooted in social norms and traditional beliefs. Knowledge on menstruation is every women and girls’ right to help them make informed choices relating to their menstrual cycle and periods. But taboos and stigmas attached to menstruation usually lead to an overall culture of silence around the topic, resulting in limited information on menstruation and menstrual hygiene.


To help women and girls reach their full potential during and beyond this pandemic, governments, development organisations, private sectors and key stakeholders need to come together through collective work to both change the negative social norms surrounding menstruation and also catalyse progress towards empowering them to unlock their educational and economic opportunities.

To manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity, it is essential that women and girls have access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene – and now more than ever, #ItsTimeForAction to help them manage safer #PeriodsInPandemics.

In conversation with Hasin Jahan..

Adolescent girls are spontaneously talking about menstrual cycles and its hygiene management as they show each other a sanitary napkin box inside of a classroom of Bahadurpur Model Academy School. Banglabazar- Gazipur, Bangladesh. April 17, 2019.

While the whole world shakes in uncertainty due to the pandemic, the hygiene of female healthcare workers remains in a detrimental situation. Access to menstrual hygiene supplies or being able to change them can be challenging for healthcare workers while treating COVID-19 patients in Bangladesh.

Adolescent girls are spontaneously talking about menstrual cycles and its hygiene management as they show each other a sanitary napkin box inside of a classroom of Bahadurpur Model Academy School. Banglabazar- Gazipur, Bangladesh. April 17, 2019.

Focusing on menstrual care in time of this deadly pandemic is even more important now, as it has heavily impacted on doctors, nurses and caregivers who are providing direct frontline care to infected patients. The frontline workers are using sanitary napkins for 18 hours at a stretch and they are finding it difficult to remove protective suits and changing menstrual materials in between their shifts.

Shortages of sanitary products and inadequate toilet facilities in hospitals have restricted the movements of health care workers as well. This leads to anxiety and heavy stress on the frontline workers as they are also denied access to basic hygiene facilities.

On 28 May 2020, Global Menstrual Hygiene Day marks upon the theme ‘Periods in Pandemic’. The theme underlines the challenges faced by women during menstruation in the ongoing crisis.

Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid

Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid

Hasin Jahan, Country Director at WaterAid Bangladesh is working to ensure access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities for the marginalised communities of the country. As a development practitioner, Jahan has been working at policy level as well as in the education sector to raise awareness on handwashing with soap and proper sanitation facilities to the vulnerable groups. In her 25 years of experience in the WASH sector, Jahan has been actively engaged with issues related to women’s health and rights.

Marking Global Menstrual Hygiene Day, Dhaka Tribune discusses key challenges and way forward with Jahan on women’s health and hygiene in light of Bangladesh’s context.

WaterAid Bangladesh has undertaken hygiene projects to save people from threat of the fatal coronavirus. WaterAid believes access to menstrual hygiene products for healthcare workers is as essential as face masks and gloves during this dire situation.

The pandemic has caused a financial dilemma for low-income healthcare workers and it is compelling them to compromise their personal hygiene in hospitals. It is needless to say that these healthcare workers need to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing during this crucial time, but they are constantly seen to deprive themselves of the necessity.

It should be ensured that healthcare workers are provided with menstrual hygiene products so they do not feel discomfort in performing their duties during the crisis.

Also, the increasing economic uncertainty going around the society leads to adolescent girls in marginalised communities to face a bigger hurdle when menstruating in the ongoing pandemic. We believe that it is important that the government must include sanitary napkins and soaps in the relief supplies and consider these as essential products for a woman’s wellbeing during emergencies.

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) should not only be an issue for girls in society solely, but it should also encompass everyone. Education at the family level and schools play a vital role to remove the stigma surrounding menstruation. MHM should not be hidden from boys in family, and textbook lessons on MHM should be taught extensively to girls in schools. We know that in schools, lessons on MHM are not explained elaborately as teachers believe that it is associated with shame and stigma.

According to the Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey 2018, about 53 percent of students knew or heard about menstruation before they started to menstruate. It is true that talking about menstruation is more open to people now than times before but it is not enough to overcome the disparity.

Girls should not be hesitant to tell their teachers for a leave due to periods, as female students are more likely to take leave from schools giving the excuse of some other illness. If people start to take this matter seriously, we can fill in the gaps with concrete bridges.

Many MHM platforms are working on campaigns to raise awareness of educating girls on menstrual hygiene. However, there is no concerned ministry or department to tackle this serious issue. If there is a ministry or department to be accountable for issues related to MHM facilities, there will be a comprehensive change throughout the nation.

The private sector and volunteers and activists should come forward to create social awareness about maintaining menstrual hygiene. We believe only collaboration can solve the struggle of most girls in the country.

In addition, certain budgets need to be allocated in research and campaigns on MHM. We need to carry out research and development to produce better-quality and low-cost sanitary products. Biodegradable sanitary napkins have been already taken under consideration as it is an environment-friendly product, however, the cost and availability of raw materials associated with its production are uncertain. In the process, we should also keep disabled women’s needs in mind and create separate products for them.

To keep up the overall progress of menstrual hygiene, we need a better jumpstart which is access to sanitary napkins. In most rural areas, improved hygiene products are still considered to be luxury products rather than essentials, which ultimately leads to an unaffordable price. To fix this, VAT and TAX need to be repealed completely from sanitary products. If we want girls of our nation to accomplish and prosper, the least we must do is to start working on basic groundwork for eliminating discrimination on the basis that they have periods and they would need to pay tax to access improved hygiene products.

– Country Director, WaterAid Bangladesh

We need to break the silence. Menstruation is a pride, its not a shame.

Alok Kumar Majumder Country Coordinator, WAI – Simavi

We need to find ways to provide services to girls and women while still trying to change people’s attitudes and change social norms.

Dara Johnston Chief of WASH – UNICEF Bangladesh

When we buy something which is essential such as salt or rice, we don’t pay VAT then why should we pay VAT from sanitary pads.

Hasin Jahan Country Director, WaterAid

This is not a new crisis but the pandemic has made things worse for our women. Young girls and women living in rural and remote areas of the country have been the worst hit as they have a serious scarcity of sanitary napkins there.

Mahbuba Haque Kumkum

During a pandemic, pads and clean and safe clothes are as important as any other thing out there.

Rokeya Kabir Executive Director and Founder, Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS)

In Bangladesh, of the 47,199,313 girls and women who have their periods every month only 8,023,859 use proper sanitary napkins.

Md Quamrul Hassan Business Director (Consumer Brands), ACI Limited

মাসিক চলাকালীন সময়ে পুরুষদের সামনে টয়লেটে যেতে লজ্জা লাগতো। এখন নতুন তৈরি হওয়া টয়লেটগুলোতে সকল মৌলিক সুবিধা থাকায় এগুলো স্বাস্থ্যকর ও পরিষ্কার।

বর্ষা ৭ম শ্রেণীর ছা্ত্রী

Periods don’t stop for pandemics!

Check out our brand-new infographic on the implications of COVID-19 on MHH, including what action is needed during and after the pandemic. Created by WASH United, in collaboration with Global Menstrual Collective, ACMHM, Days for Girls, PSI, UNFPA, WaterAid and WSSCC.

The campaign crew


Kamrul Hasan, Dhaka Tribune


Baizid Haque Joarder, Dhaka Tribune


WaterAid, Drik Picture Library Limited, Farzana Hossen, Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, Abir Abdullah, Habibul Haque, Saikat Mojumder, Jannatul Mawa


Mamunur Rashid, GreyFox

Project Assistant

Ishtiaque Mahmud and Farhun Muide Khandoker, Dhaka Tribune

Campaign Planning and Co-ordination

Samia Mallik, WaterAid

Project Co-ordinator

Faysal Abbas, WaterAid