May 28 is MH Day!

Représentation d'une serviette hygiénique dans le cadre du MH Day 2021

Among the 579 so-called “world” or “international” days celebrated each year, did you know that there is International Menstrual Hygiene Day ? Also known as Menstrual Hygiene Day or MH Day , it takes place on May 28 . Its goal: to raise public awareness of the many problems women around the world face when they have their periods . One day in the year dedicated to highlighting what menstrual hygiene management and menstrual insecurity are . It is an opportunity to carry out information activities about menstruation and related subjects, to mobilize the media on these social issues and to highlight the committed work of defenders of the cause throughout the year. To find out everything about this day – its history, its challenges and the content of the 2021 edition – read on!

Back to the origins of International Menstrual Hygiene Day

How was MH Day born?

The first edition of MH Day took place in 2014, following an awareness initiative led the previous year by WASH United – WASH for WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene , or water, sanitation and hygiene.

WASH United is a German non-governmental organization (NGO) which has been fighting since 2010 to improve conditions of access to drinking water and hygiene in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In May 2013, the NGO launched a 28-day social media campaign called May #Menstravaganza. The goal is to talk about testing and unsanitary water and to observe if other organizations and institutions show an interest in these issues. The feedback is very positive. This is what encourages the organizers to establish an annual global day of action to sustain the mobilization and bring together all partners under the same banner.

From 2014, May 28 becomes the official date of International Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Why does MH Day take place on May 28?

The date of May 28 was not chosen at random. The two elements that constitute it each refer to data relating to the menstrual cycle:
  • The 28th day of the month for the average 28 days of a menstrual cycle;
  • The month of May, the 5th of the year, for the 5 days on average that the period of menstruation lasts during a cycle.

A numerical combination full of symbols which can serve as a mnemonic to more easily remember this date!

Why International Menstrual Hygiene Day?

MH Day seeks to break taboos relating to menstruation and to raise awareness of the importance of menstrual hygiene management . But what exactly does the term “menstrual hygiene management” mean? How does it constitute a major societal issue? Is a world day devoted entirely to this subject really necessary?

What is menstrual hygiene management?

We talk about menstrual hygiene management ( GHM ) in French or Menstrual Hygiene Management ( MHM ) in English. It's everything women and girls need to understand and experience their periods hygienically, with complete safety, privacy and dignity, and without shame.

An official definition of MHM by WHO and UNICEF

Through their joint monitoring program for water supply, sanitation and hygiene, WHO (the World Health Organization) and UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) have defined in 2012 what they mean by GHM: “Women and adolescent girls [who] use a clean menstrual hygiene product to absorb or collect menstrual blood, which can be changed in private as often as necessary during length of the menstrual period, using soap and water to wash the body as needed, and having access to safe and convenient facilities to dispose of the used product. They understand the basic facts about the menstrual cycle and how to manage it with dignity and without embarrassment or fear (1) .”

The constituent elements of MHM

A complete and ideal DRG combines the following elements:
  • access to suitable menstrual hygiene products (sanitary napkins, tissues, tampons, underwear, menstrual cups) and menstrual hygiene supplies (soap, bucket, clothesline, etc.);
  • access to practical information on the use, cleaning and disposal of these products and factual, practical educational resources on periods and menstrual hygiene;
  • access to adequate facilities for changing, cleaning and drying if necessary its periodic protection (secure, private toilets and bathrooms equipped with water), and disposing of it in a practical and discreet manner once used, whether at home or in public places and establishments;
  • security , guaranteed by a safe environment and the possibility of access to facilities day and night;
  • privacy , with the ability to manage one's menstrual cycle privately and discreetly;
  • dignity , thanks to taking into account the social and cultural norms that permeate each country or region.

Obstacles to menstrual hygiene management: what causes problems

The obstacles to satisfactory menstrual hygiene conditions are the problems that affect each of the dimensions, mentioned previously, which make up MHM.

  • Lack of resources for menstrual hygiene products

Many people encounter financial difficulties – precarious workers, middle and high school students, homeless people – who can no longer afford sanitary protection (no longer at all or in sufficient quantity) and thus experience menstrual insecurity , which we told you about already talked about in an article on the blog. Sometimes, it is the poor supply or shortage of these consumer goods that prevents women from having access to them. 

  • Lack of information

Women, especially young girls, do not always have the chance to benefit from education on issues related to their periods, which arise for them early in their lives. The intimate dimension and the strong link with sexuality, as well as preconceived ideas about menstruation, can make those who receive the information uncomfortable, but also those who give it. It is usually mothers, aunts, sisters or friends who provide the first information, often tinged with subjective comments linked to personal experience, cultural beliefs and superstition.

  • Lack of facilities

The necessary infrastructure is sometimes non-existent or is not systematically clean, equipped with a lock, trash can or even a water point, and is in some cases mixed.

  • Discomfort and anxiety

The stereotypes that society conveys can lead women to think that periods are dirty, even unhealthy, and induce a feeling of discomfort or shame. The stigmatization of discharge and blood can force them to limit themselves in their activities and social interactions, for fear of leaks and stains on their clothes. Concerns about managing their periods can be a heavy mental burden for some women.

  • Cultural taboos

Local cultural beliefs can lead to risky situations and behaviors for women. Certain types of periodic protection are prohibited, used in secret or misused. Places or activities are prohibited for women when they are on their period, forcing them into isolation, as in India where they are refused access to the temple (2) or in Nepal where they are temporarily banned from their village and have to live in separate cabins (3) .

Is there really a need for a World Menstrual Hygiene Day?

The difficulties that women encounter on a daily basis in managing their menstrual cycle are not anecdotal. This is a truth for so many women all over the world. According to the Règles Élémentaires association , there are “100 million girls in developing countries who miss one week of school per month because of their periods and lack of access to suitable intimate hygiene products” (4) . But this does not only concern developing countries: in France, for example, 2 million women face menstrual poverty (4) .

The consequences of poor menstrual hygiene can be multiple, disabling and sometimes serious: discomfort, irritation or infections when menstrual hygiene products are incorrectly used, gynecological lesions, increased risk of toxic shock syndrome when certain protections are worn during many consecutive hours, loss of self-confidence, problems with dropping out of school, social exclusion and professional integration, etc.

This day is therefore an essential tool for communicating these facts and risks. An official website was developed accordingly. The MH Day's mission is to:

  • “breaking the silence, raising awareness and changing negative social norms around MHM around the world;
  • engage decision-makers at global, national and local levels to reinforce the policy priority of MHM and catalyze action.”

It is also a one-off annual event which complements all the actions carried out continuously the rest of the year.

The 2020 and 2021 editions of International Menstrual Hygiene Day

MH Day 2020

Record numbers 

The covid-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on the 2020 edition of International Menstrual Hygiene Day. Despite this, MH Day was very satisfied with the results obtained in 2020 :
  • more than 4,000 articles published in online media on menstrual health and hygiene, an increase of 84% compared to 2019;
  • 151,000 contributions on social networks ;
  • more than 225 events organized online around MH Day.

An object of recognition and support: the menstruation bracelet

The 2020 edition was also marked by the launch of a new gathering and communication tool: the menstruation bracelet .

This is a representation of a bracelet made up of 28 beads in total: 23 are white and 5 are colored red, as a reminder of the date May 28 and its hidden symbolism.
The idea? Encourage everyone to take a photo of themselves with the bracelet on their wrist and share the image on social networks, to give visibility to the cause and provide support.
How ? Create your own physical version of the bracelet with your own means – beads, chickpeas, etc. – or use the digital version downloadable from the MH Day platform and insert it into one of your photos.

MH Day 2021

International Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 is all about action, with the official hashtags: #MHDay2021 and #ItsTimeForAction.

The 2021 campaign video gives the floor to representatives of the different partner organizations and associations.

The MH Day site lists the events of this 2021 edition, shares infographics and provides communication kits created by several artists in 7 different languages.

Each edition of International Menstrual Hygiene Day gives rise to hundreds of initiatives, events and activities organized by different partners. MH Day aims “to create a world where no woman or girl is held back because she has her period by 2030”. What is at stake here is the opportunity for all women to reach their full potential, in France and around the world, whether personally or professionally.

Written by cd

Sources :

  1. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Consultation on Draft Long List of Goal, Target and Indicator Options for Future Global Monitoring of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  2. Bouissou, J. (2017, December 24). Indian women defy the rules . Le

  3. Stacke, S. (2020, November 5). In Nepal, a traditional belief forces girls and women to flee their homes during their periods, considered impure. They are forced to go to huts that they share . National Geographic

  4. Basic Rules. Missions and key figures