An Ecosystem Approach to Menstrual Health

Why We Need Cross-Sectional Solutions to Period Access

Tyler A. Donohue

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At the end of April 2021, a cohort of researchers and academics published the first comprehensive and self-contained definition of menstrual health. Despite the increase in menstrual health advocacy, programming, policy, and research, there was no holistic method to define menstruation health up until this point. Imagine that — a physical experience that happens to nearly 4 billion people every month, and there’s no academic definition for what exactly it should entail?

In order to work towards something or truly understanding anything, we must first define it. Words have symbolic and significant meaning, and thus when we define things, we bring power to them. Within the development world, topics such as menstruation, maternal mortality, or girls’ access to education are often framed as “women’s issues.” This is simply a way to codify such issues as less important or somehow disconnected from the larger macro-societal issues such as poverty. It also attempts to frame any problem that women have as monolithic — one problem, one solution. This approach disregards any notion that there are complex and intersecting experiences that women face throughout their lives, both physically and mentally.

In 2019 alone, the United State Spent over $47 billion in foreign aid. When it comes to gender equality interventions, there is no shortage of money. There is only a shortage of concern and comprehension. Defining menstrual health means linking our monthly cycles to global health, national policy, and funding. Defining menstrual health means bring power to it, and encouraging the deliberate collection of and prioritization of sex-disaggregated data that can accurately track the intersections between these topics.

What is Menstrual Health and Hygiene?

So, what exactly is menstrual health? According to Menstrual Health: A Definition for Policy, Practice and Research, “menstrual health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle.”

Understanding how to achieve this definition of menstrual health means narrowing in on…

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Tyler A. Donohue

Pastimes include playing with words, using my passport, and eating croissants. A writer of all things gender, culture, and travel.