Cultural taboos, and lack of information and access to sanitary napkins, mean that menstruation still limits the lives of women and girls in many places. Stayfree and UNICEF developed a series of social and behavior-change initiatives to improve resources and understanding among girls, families and society.
Stayfree is using its expertise in menstrual hygiene to act as a knowledge partner for UNICEF’s program to education girls on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).
The Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health feminine-hygiene brand provides product-specification guidance to be used in the MHM guidelines, along with high-impact campaigns and on-the-ground support to deliver positive social change in this area. Together, Stayfree and UNICEF have educated over 1.7 million girls across India on MHM in the last seven years.
Cultural taboos, combined with a lack of information and access to sanitary napkins, mean that menstruation still limits the lives of women and girls in many places. Stayfree and UNICEF partnered to develop a series of social and behavior-change initiatives to address these challenges and improve understanding among girls, families and the wider society.
In India, about 15 million girls enter the menarche cycle every year, yet more than 71 percent of them have no knowledge of menstruation before their periods. The MHM program aims to increase awareness and normalize periods for women and girls and their communities across the country.
The initiative helped strengthen the adoption of MHM guidelines across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Assam by empowering over 10,000 trainers to ensure the program was self-sustaining; it has also helped to reduce the school dropout rates of girls entering their menarche cycle.
“Stayfree has always believed in normalizing period conversations and promoting best practices for Menstrual Hygiene Management; our partnership with UNICEF is a testament to the brand’s steadfast commitment to this core belief,” says Manoj Gadgil — VP of Marketing for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Division, India. “The brand has built a strong ecosystem through targeted initiatives such as #PeriodAmbassadors, wherein efforts of young girls and their fathers who have made a difference were acknowledged and celebrated through various initiatives. Stayfree has brought about a significant cultural shift amongst local communities — debunking myths around period taboos and giving impetus to open conversations on improved menstrual hygiene practices. In partnership with UNICEF, the brand will continue striving towards the objective of bringing about sustainable, long-term social change in society.”
The #PeriodAmbassadors campaign supports and celebrates people who lead by example to normalize period conversations in their homes, neighborhoods and society at large — aiming to help young girls feel confident and supported. One of the many lives touched by Stayfree through the MHM guidelines is Basant Lal — a father of eight daughters from Mirzapur. When his daughter, Priya Devi, became a peer educator on MHM in her village, he provided complete support and even attended menstrual health workshops led by her. Today, Basant continues to be an ardent supporter of menstrual health for girls in the village.
“UNICEF recognizes the need to break the silence that surrounds menstruation by imparting appropriate knowledge — not limited to girls and women, but also men and boys — on the importance of menstrual hygiene, empowering girls to talk freely about menstruation and facilitating behavior change,” says Nicolas Osbert, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at UNICEF India. “UNICEF works with partners like Stayfree — reaching over three million girls with awareness-raising interventions, and more than 10,000 trainers sensitized and engaged across states to support menstrual hygiene management practices.”
Convening stakeholder support in India
Working with local and government stakeholders has been vital to advance success of the program. In Bihar, alliances with stakeholders such as state-level CSO partners, teachers’ forums and government counterparts have played a key role in mobilizing people on MHM. These alliances enabled the initiative to reach more than 80,000 women and children directly through various activities including the #RedDotChallenge, online webinars and quizzes, poem and article competitions, and a Facebook Live talk show.
In Uttar Pradesh, 3,507 local stakeholders were trained on MHM topics to support the implementation of MHM activities and raise awareness within the community. Across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, more than 50,000 rural women in self-help groups and 100,000 adolescent girls have been reached with MHM messages on proper hygiene during menstruation, the use of safe products, and breaking taboos around MHM.
Stayfree and UNICEF continue to work together and remain committed to improving menstrual health and hygiene management among adolescent girls around the world.