The Royal Patron of Red Dot Bhutan, Her Royal Highness Ashi Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck encouraged boys and men to create a period-friendly environment in all schools across Bhutan for all girls and women to have access to inclusive toilets.
For the last six years, advocacy around Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) has been calling for more action and investment in menstrual hygiene. To sustain the achievements made thus far and to catalyze progress, Red Dot Bhutan is now shifting its call to commitment for action.
“Red Dot Bhutan calls on our boys and men to champion the campaign towards deconstructing the stigma and misconceptions associated with menstruation. We urge you to normalize the word ‘period’ and encourage you to challenge the myths, misconceptions, and practices that allow fear, shame, and stigma during menstruation. We ask you to continue advocating and providing support towards enhancing effective menstrual hygiene management,” HRH Ashi Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck said in her message as Bhutan joined the world in observing the Menstrual Hygiene Day today.
Themed “We are committed – Men take lead,” the Day was observed with HRH gracing the event and awarding certificates of appreciation to men who have supported Red Dot Bhutan in advocating menstrual hygiene management in the country.
Besides ensuring access to menstrual products and raising awareness on MHM, the Ministry of Education and partners will announced to address the menstrual management needs of girls and women with disabilities in schools and institutions.
Menstruating girls and women with different types of disabilities were found to face difficulties placing their sanitary protection materials in the correct position and washing themselves, their clothes, and sanitary materials.
A 2018 Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Study on MHM for Adolescent School Girls and Nuns found that teachers advised parents to keep their child with disabilities at home during menstruation as the schools were not adequately equipped to support children with special needs during menstruation.
There are today 33 schools across Bhutan with 865 children with special educational needs of which 491 are adolescent girls. Of the 33 schools, 24 are designated as inclusive schools or schools with Special Education Needs (SEN) programmes. Two institutions are categorized as special schools as they provide specialized education to students with disabilities.
Considering the needs for inclusive toilets and WASH facilities in SEN schools, the School Health and Nutrition Division (SHND) in partnership with UNICEF Bhutan, the Special Educational Needs Programme and School Infrastructure and Development (SIDD) will construct five inclusive toilets that includes provision to address menstrual hygiene management for adolescent girls with disabilities.
Construction works in two of the targeted schools – Changangkha Middle Secondary School in Thimphu and Khuruthang Middle Secondary School in Punakha has begun and the inclusive toilets are expected to complete by the end of this year. When complete, the five inclusive toilets is expected to benefit 139 (85 female) children with disabilities.
Among others, Red Dot Bhutan’s advocacy has led to the institutionalization of menstrual health and hygiene in the Health and Physical Education curriculum in schools and the Parliament endorsing the call to exempt taxes on all menstrual products.
UNICEF Bhutan Representative a.i Marie-Consolee Mukangendo said UNICEF works with Governments and partners across the world to improve access to water and menstrual hygiene services so that all menstruating girls can manage their cycle in a dignified, healthy way.
“UNICEF Bhutan is committed to support the Royal Government of Bhutan in ensuring access to inclusive WASH services in schools and institutions while advocating to destigmatize menstruation,” Marie-Consolee Mukangendo said.
In preparation for this academic year and to support their learning without having to experience stress, shame, or unnecessary barriers, the Ministry of Education and partners distributed 2,000 menstrual cups, 17,000 reusable sanitary pads, 500 sanitary tampons and 5,500 disposable sanitary pads to 139 schools to safeguard the health and well-being of 2,700 adolescent girls. In addition, the Ministry of Education in partnership with RENEW and UNICEF this year also distributed 1000 reusable dignity kit sets to students in five schools.
Under the Patronage of HRH Ashi Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck, the Red Dot Bhutan is an advocacy platform to raise awareness on Menstrual Hygiene Management and destigmatize menstruation. It is led by the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Dratshang Lhentshog, Bhutan Nuns Foundation, RENEW, SNV and UNICEF.