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Menstruating with Dignity: Coalition of Leaders from the Global South Call for Strengthened Menstrual Health Programming and Awareness

Narratives around menstruation must go beyond hygiene to focus on dignity, said Radha Paudel, a Nepal-based community organizer and founder of the Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation (GSCDM).

Originally created by Paudel in 2013, the coalition aims to place dignity at the center of conversations around menstruation for women in the Global South. GSCDM member Esther Kyazike, who directs the Kawempe Youth Center Uganda, cited the challenges facing menstruators from the Global South, who are disproportionally barred from schools and places of worship, face potential unemployment, and lack essential hygiene supplies due to taboos and stigmas.

To combat this, GSCDM’s member organizations lead programming that includes holding de-stigmatizing workshops, organizing support groups for (pre-)pubescent adolescents, and staging advocacy campaigns to reconceptualize national policies impacting menstruators.

The coalition serves all individuals who menstruate, including girls, women, transgender people, and queer populations.

Paudel clarified that dignified menstruation is not limited to reproductive years but, instead, extends through an individual’s lives as, in some cultures, even death rituals are informed by a person’s menstrual status. This conceptualization of menstruation said coalition member Anna Soetomo, “normalizes” the life-long impacts of menstruation, thereby creating opportunities for more open, holistic narratives around dignified menstruation.

Paudel acknowledged that establishing menstruation as a comprehensive, dignified experience strengthens sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), engendering cultures of equality that, for example, simultaneously empower voluntary contraception, gender-based violence prevention, and safe abortion.

Menstruating with dignity during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic remains a priority for GSCDM members, particularly as travel bans and stay-at-home orders disrupt menstrual health supply chains worldwide. Anupa Regmi, a GSCDM member from Nepal, added that digital community engagement, including online courses, social media campaigns, and radio programming, has become a particularly important method to share dignified menstruation messaging to more out-of-reach populations. Likewise, Kyazike said that her member organization has led food delivery and COVID-19 awareness-raising campaigns to provide emergency support for the populations they serve.

GSCDM invites you to follow their work on their website.