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.

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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.