How the Women of Haiti are Claiming a New Future

This post originally appeared on: GANM Blogs

Part I [of a 3 part series]
How following disasters, the lack of access to healthcare, education, and resources to support personal hygiene, creates serious health and socioeconomic implications for women and girls.
Introduction

 

Mahila Partnership has been addressing the most pressing unmet needs of women and girls following disasters since 2007.

In this 5-part series we will share critical health and hygiene issues faced by the women and girls we work with, showcasing our flagship program in Haiti that is informing the way forward for addressing this one essential human right.

Summary

When girls and women cannot equally and effectively be involved in their community, particularly when recovering from a crisis, pre-existing education and gender disparities become magnified. The lack of access to resources to support personal hygiene for girls and women, lack of clean water or latrines and gaps in hygiene education creates serious health and socioeconomic implications. Our program aims to address the need of adequate health and hygiene supplies and education, and illustrate how together with local partners, Mahila Partnership is working to reverse this inequity with grassroots efforts, social entrepreneurship, and impact investing.

Issue

The women and girls we work with in Haiti, Nepal and India are part of an estimated 200 million menstruating girls and women around the world who struggle to find clean water for washing, private places for changing, and adequate blood-absorbing materials.

We have found that during menstruation, this issue can also result in the increased risk of disease and reproductive health issues. Under these circumstances, females are forced to modify daily activities such as going to school or work. When girls and women cannot equally and effectively be involved in their community, particularly when recovering from a crisis, pre-existing education and gender disparities become magnified and their ability to contribute to the economic viability of their families and recovery from disaster is hindered.

Imagine that something so simple is overlooked leading to such profound inequality and harm. 

Why Is This an Issue?

Reasons for not using sanitary pads include lack of awareness, high cost, and accessibility issues. In addition, inadequate facilities cause many women and girls to not have a place to change, wash or dry their sanitary pads and make them unable to wash themselves regularly.

In many cases, menstruation is a social taboo and remains invisible and secret. The pre-existing status of women and girls in their community also plays an important role in understanding these challenges. For example, a significant number of girls do not fully understand the physical process of menstruation, lack awareness of health practices, and do not have access to facilities needed to maintain good hygiene during menstruation.

In this blog series, we will discuss:

  1. the need for research and what our early field surveys are telling us
  2. a roadmap for WASH (Global Water Sanitation and Hygiene Program) integration as it relates to menstrual health
  3. lessons learned from our program in Haiti