The Last Taboo: Research on Managing Menstruation in the Pacific

Author/s: Burnet Institute, WaterAid Australia and the International Women's Development Agency

There is increasing recognition that women and girls’ experiences of menstruation and menstrual hygiene practices can negatively impact on their health, education and psychosocial outcomes in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Managing menstruation effectively and with dignity can be especially challenging in these settings, and may result in adverse consequences such as behavioural restrictions, reduced school or work attendance, or shame and embarrassment. Research from Africa and Asia suggests that lack of adequate knowledge, materials and facilities to manage menstrual bleeding can impact negatively on girls’ and women’s participation in education and employment. In the Pacific region however, there is a dearth of research regarding the determinants and impacts of menstrual hygiene management (MHM), and of effective interventions to improve this.

To address this gap, DFAT commissioned the Burnet Institute, WaterAid Australia and the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) to undertake research in three countries in the Pacific: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. This research will explore whether managing menstruation is a challenge for women and girls in the Pacific and whether menstruation is a barrier to education, employment of other income-generating activities. This research also aims to understand and provide evidence, analysis and advice on the relevant contextual factors that support or inhibit women’s and girls’ access to menstrual hygiene information, materials and facilities, including their needs, preferences and current access to appropriate menstrual hygiene materials, toilets, washing facilities and facilities for disposal of absorbent materials.

The literature review examines the determinants and impacts of MHM, and effective interventions for improving MHM globally and in the Pacific. The review also seeks to describe Australian Government programming relevant to MHM in the three research countries and to identify opportunities for MHM programming.

This report uses the term menstrual hygiene management (MHM) to refer to the specific hygiene and health requirements of women during menstruation, including the information, materials and facilities that girls and women need to manage menstruation. The term menstrual health and hygiene is also used and encompasses both MHM as well as the broader systemic factors that link menstruation with health, well-being, gender, education, equity, empowerment, and rights.

Read in full:

  1. Final Report 
  2. Detailed study reports for Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea
  3. Literature Review 

  • Organisation commissioning the research: DFAT
  • Date Published: September 12, 2017
  • Language published in: English

Health, Menstrual Hygiene Management, Menstruation