Menstrual health is a human rights issue, not just a health one. Everyone has a right to bodily autonomy. The ability to care for one’s body while menstruating is an essential part of this fundamental freedom. Yet hundreds of millions of people lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual health.

With this in mind, the theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day this year is: “Together for a #PeriodFriendlyWorld.” 

Poor menstrual health and hygiene undercut fundamental rights for women, girls and people who menstruate, worsening social and economic inequalities. Insufficient resources to manage menstruation, as well as patterns of exclusion and shame, undermine human dignity. Gender inequality, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions can amplify deprivation and stigma.

There is wide agreement on what people need for good menstrual health. The essential elements: safe, acceptable and reliable supplies to manage menstruation; privacy to change materials; facilities to safely and privately wash; and information to make informed choices. Comprehensive approaches that combine education with infrastructure and with products and efforts to tackle stigma are most successful in achieving good menstrual health.

Global and national health and development policies should prioritize menstrual health, with investment reflecting the important role it plays in human rights, public health, gender equality and sustainable development. Schools, workplaces and public institutions should ensure that people can manage menstruation with comfort and dignity. Targeted policies should seek to eliminate period poverty, in which low-income women and girls struggle to afford menstrual products and have limited access to water and sanitation services.

Among initiatives to support menstrual health and hygiene, UNFPA reaches people who menstruate through education initiatives, safe sanitation facilities – including in displacement camps – and dignity kits containing essentials such as soap, supplies and underwear. You can learn more about menstruation and human rights here