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Recently, I gave a presentation focusing on the complex connection between menstrual health and environmental issues. Within the presentation, I explored various crucial facets of this relationship, including the challenges surrounding access and use of reusable menstrual products, the environmental consequences of climate change on menstrual health practices, and the pressing issues related to resource scarcity and access to essential water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, which are essential for ensuring dignified menstruation. Additionally, I touched upon the significance of menstrual waste and its effects on our water and soil.

Article written by

Carla Liera Researcher

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Mexican based in Sweden

I am a project manager and researcher specializing in international development with 8+ years of experience working with water and sanitation issues. I have a deep passion for social inclusion, gender and co-creation processes

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Following the presentation, I was asked whether menstrual waste truly represented a significant issue. The person questioning argued that when compared to other forms of solid waste, menstrual waste constitutes only a small fraction, suggesting that the primary concern should be ensuring menstruators have the freedom to choose the products they prefer. In that moment, I offered a nod of agreement but didn't elaborate on the matter. However, upon reflection later that day, I found myself contemplating this viewpoint, and I'd like to share my thoughts in the following paragraphs.

The person's perspective raises an important point – in the broader context of waste management, menstrual waste may indeed constitute a relatively small portion of the overall waste stream. However, it's crucial to understand that the significance of this issue transcends mere volume measurements. The dialogue surrounding menstrual waste weaves into a more extensive narrative that encompasses crucial aspects of women's rights and climate and social justice.

Ensuring the right to choose menstrual products aligns with personal autonomy and dignity. However, this freedom should extend to include proper menstrual waste disposal options, allowing menstruators to maintain their dignity while minimizing adverse impacts on the environment and local resources. In doing so, we can recognize that challenges and menstrual stigma extend beyond blood containment and period products. Providing effective waste solutions is especially important in lower- and middle-income settings. Where improperly managed menstrual waste disproportionately burdens poorer communities, placing the responsibility on them to handle a problem that directly impacts their well-being and their surroundings and limits their right to a dignified menstruation.

While it is undeniable that menstruation is fundamentally a human rights issue, with a primary focus on upholding the rights, needs, and freedom of menstruators to make informed decisions about their menstrual health, it's crucial to recognize that human rights and the environment are deeply interconnected. In this context, a habitable environment, access to resources, and well-managed water sources are indispensable for a dignified menstruation. The well-being of individuals and the environment's health are not mutually exclusive objectives and therefore they should be addressed holistically.

Therefore, it's crucial to raise awareness among policymakers, menstruators, and the broader public about this matter. This awareness should encompass the necessity for safely managed water and sanitation services, efficient menstrual waste disposal systems, and the environmental impact of climate change on current and future menstrual health practices. It's also essential to emphasize the detrimental effects of unsustainable production and disposal practices on the environment, and how these can hinder the realization of our human right to a dignified menstruation.


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