2020 in Review 
Menstrual Memo sent with love (5 min. read)

2020, what a year!

Crazy, intense and unprecedented are three words to describe 2020. Despite how challenging this year has been due to the global pandemic, it's important to know that the menstrual movement has grown stronger than ever, seeding real progress towards a more gender equal world.

Whereas Pantone's period red and Brewdog + BGP's 'Bloody Good Beer' showed us some incredible menstrual marketing this year, we will focus on all the amazing progress around menstrual health policy, research, innovation and more that really turned 2020 into a catalyzing year for period progress! 

Read on and enjoy. And then rest, dear period pals. You deserve it. 

Seasons bleedings, 

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The MH Hub started this year out SUPER STRONG with the International Women's Day March IRL (in real life!)! While all other cities were starting to lock down, Berlin was still able to march! Together with with local partners Einhorn and Franka Frei, we organized a PERIOD BLOC of menstrual warriors on a mission to make menstruation matter! Who can forget all the inspiring feminist and menstrual-themed signs we saw and made?!? We sure miss those days. :( 

In 2020, we also built out our Women-Centered Design (WCD) tools for startups and social enterprises, i.e. for the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator. In 2021 we will be scaling this work. Watch this space for more opportunities on how to use WCD in your efforts to advance female health and gender equality!

Other victories the Menstrual Health Hub (MH Hub) can celebrate this year:
  • A 40% increase in the size of our community with 808 entries on the Global Menstrual Map to date!
  • Over 1200 resources on our free-to-access Knowledge Hive around MH research, education, policy and innovation
  • We launched a Community Insights Poll to inform the development of our new online platform. Check out the report.
  • We received a generous grant from WSSCC to help digitize our revamped Community Platform, including the Knowledge Hive (launching in 2021)
  • A mention in The Kulcyzk Report on Ending Period Poverty as an indirect intervention in menstrual health movement building (check out page 58!)
Check out our 2020 Annual Report
We're searching for sponsorship partners to continue growing the global menstrual movement and sustaining collective impact. 
Connect with us to learn more about the MH Hub Inner Circle!

Across the world there have been impressive policy victories, each one moving the global menstrual movement a step in the right direction:
  •  In Kenya, an official MHM Policy was launched by the Ministry of Health and partners in 28 May, 2020 to be integrated into current government programs that have MHM components. In November, the Kenyan Bureau of Standards also issued new guidelines for reusable pads.
  • South Africa saw the launch of The South African Coalition for Menstrual Health & Hygiene (SACMHM), an alliance for collective action to strengthen coordination amongst stakeholders working to develop responsive MHH solutions in South Africa.
  • The United States introduced a pandemic stimulus bill which included menstrual products (!)
  • The Swedish Institute for Standards (Sweden), SIS, along with other several Swedish stakeholders, have submitted a proposal to the consumer advocacy organization within ISO, called Copolco to standardize the quality of products.
  • Lastly, amazing news from Scotland: A bill passed making period products free for all of those in need! Check out this brilliant commentary from our ever-shimmering and inspiring menstrual warrior, Jennifer Weiss Wolf.  
Browse more research in the MH Hub Knowledge Hive

The work around establishing stronger guidance for impact measurement, M&E, and program evaluation has been significant and has contributed to a stronger MHH sector during 2020:
  • With 72 chapters, written by 134 contributors from more than 30 countries, The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies was launched in 2020 as an open access, multidisciplinary and comprehensive exploration of menstruation across the lifespan.
  • Dr. Julie Hennegan created the Menstrual Practice Needs Scale (MPNS-36), a set of self-report questions that measure menstrual experiences and the extent to which respondents’ menstrual management practices and environments are perceived to meet their needs
  • UNICEF's 'Guidance for Monitoring Menstrual Health and Hygiene (V.I)guide supports the development and/or improvement of MHH monitoring by highlighting basic principles (including ethical considerations) and example questions to monitor various elements of MHH.
Browse more research in the MH Hub Knowledge Hive

Every year, it's incredible to see the ingenuous new products / services that come to the market, and 2020 was no different! We're so pleased to see a rise in femtech, menopause, and female health investment:
  • Femtech Focus launched this year to empower the femtech industry! Through its efforts, Femtech Focus increases awareness of femtech in the tech world, provides resources to femtech founders, and creates opportunities to support femtech startups through exposure, networking, and access to capital! (And they have a really informative podcast as well!)
  • Two companies, Planera and Polipop have debuted flushable menstrual pads this year. These pads will be safe to flush, biodegradable and will only disintegrate when they're exposed to the water when you flush it down the toilet. Watch this type of innovation expand and grow in 2021!
  • Oky by UNICEF is a period tracking app made for and co-created with girls, providing them with information about their periods in fun, creative, and positive ways. Oky is scaling all across the world!
Browse more femtech innovations in the MH Hub Knowledge Hive

While COVID-19 hit everyone hard, the menstrual community rallied and came together to support those who needed it:
More #PeriodsInPandemic resources
We are looking for sponsorship partners to help us continue growing the global menstrual movement and sustaining collective impact! Talk to Danielle about joining the MH Hub Inner Circle
Afripads are looking for a talented and passionate Product Developer to join their Research & Development team in Kampala, Uganda. Apply here!
Nua is looking for a talented and passionate Senior Product Manager to join India’s largest and most engaged digital-first feminine care brand. Apply here!

The Women's Reproductive Health Journal is currently seeking a new Editor-in-Chief with an academic background in the biomedical, psychosocial, and/or cultural aspects of reproductive health with attention to interdisciplinarity. Apply here!

Want to post something on the new Community Blackboard?
Contact us to inquire about our rates! 
Memo got cut off? Read here!
1. Hennegan et al., 2020: ‘I do what a woman should do’: a grounded theory study of women’s menstrual experiences at work in Mukono District, Uganda. A qualitative study was conducted amongst 35 women aged 18-49 in Mukono District, Uganda to explore working women’s menstrual experiences and the impact of menstruation on their work and health. Results: a conceptual map of the categories was identified as ‘being a responsible woman’. ''Being Responsible"  meant keeping menstruation secret, and the body clean, at all times. These gendered expectations meant that any difficulty managing menses represented a failure of womanhood, met with disgust and shame. Difficulties with menstrual pain and heavy bleeding were excepted from these expectations and perceived as requiring compassion. Menstrual products were expensive for most women, and many expressed concerns about the quality of cheaper brands. Workplace infrastructure, particularly unreliable water supply and cleanliness, was problematic for many women who resorted to travelling home or to other facilities to meet their needs. Menstruation presented a burden at work, causing some women to miss work and income, and many others to endure pain, discomfort and anxiety throughout their day.
2. Gruer et al., 2020: Guidance Note: Integrating Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) into Ebola Response. Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is a fast-growing focus in the humanitarian response globally. Evidence of its relevance continues to grow particularly in the current Ebola virus disease (EVD) response. This guide aims to address frontline programme staff, programme supervisors and country-level staff, as well as donors’ agencies, and organisations in the planning and delivery of EVD outbreak response with attention to MHM. For patients and potentially infected women and girls, as well as the staff, knowledge of menstrual needs is essential. Trained response staff on the subject of needs of menstruating women and girls during an EVD outbreak must be present. The staff members must be able to clarify and contextualise the case definition of Ebola, specifically the difference between “explicable bleeding” (e.g. menstruation) vs. “inexplicable bleeding” (e.g. prenatal bleeding). Since “inexplicable bleeding” is a symptom of EVD, this has the potential to result in confusion around menstruation in the community. Community-level education and messaging about the difference between menstruation and “inexplicable bleeding” can help dissolve the confusion and fear about having EVD. The menstrual blood of confirmed and suspected patients’ needs to be handled properly because it is a potentially infectious bodily fluid. As a result, it is recommended that patients in treatment centres should be provided with single-use MHM products to reduce washing and drying. Previous studies have stressed the importance of the provision of menstrual materials, Female-Friendly Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities, and healthcare facilities with safe and private menstrual disposal; healthcare facilities, especially those caring for potential Ebola patients, should not be left out. When discharged from an Ebola Treatment Centre, women and girls should be briefed on what to expect with their menstruation during recovery. Also, providing discharged patients with culturally appropriate kits with menstrual materials would restore the materials they had to dispose of for fear of contamination. An essential part of this integration is to ensure the education does not further stigmatize menstruation and menstruating women and girls. Overall, collaboration and engagement across sectors with knowledge of MHM needs of women or girls in the EVD response will lead to the best possible outcome.

3. Rossouw & Ross, 2020:  An Economic Assessment of Menstrual Hygiene Product Tax Cuts. Access to menstrual hygiene (MH) products is key to safe menstrual hygiene management that promotes dignity and health for women and girls all over the world. Globally, there is a movement to remove Value-Added Tax/General Sales Tax (VAT/GST) on MH products with the intention to increase their use through making them affordable. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this report evaluates the economic impact of MH product tax cuts with a focus on the implications for affordability, equity of access and use, and government revenue. Specifically, this study draws on information from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, four countries that experienced MH product tax cuts, comparing them with other countries to determine patterns and make global comparisons. MH products are significantly less affordable in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) than in high-income countries (HICs). A cause of this may be the lack of competitiveness in the MH product market allowing manufacturers and retailers to absorb tax cuts in their profit margin resulting in higher prices and lower affordability. Because of the complexity of VAT/GST systems, removal does not necessarily result in a retail price reduction. Wealth, education, and urban residence, rather than price, are the most important determinants of MH product use in LMICs. Poor accessibility among vulnerable populations may have created a market for dangerous, chemically harmful products. The research concludes that removing VAT/GST alone will not sufficiently improve the affordability of MH products in order to increase use. Even if all VAT/GST tax cuts were passed on to consumers, the impact on price would still be relatively small. Some recommendations from this study include promoting local manufacturing of MH products to incentivize competition and offering targeted subsidies to support free or affordable distribution of MH products.

4. Be Girl, 2020, Menstrual Management Amind Dual Disaters: Cyclone Idai Plus COVID-19 in Sofala, Mozambique Qualitative Learning Study. This study initially aimed to gather quantitative data about the effectiveness of a menstrual health and hygiene intervention (sustainable products and educational workshops) on girls’ knowledge and attitudes about menstruation and their ability to participate in daily activities within Sofala cyclone resettlement centers. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic during implementation, the study shifted its approach to collect qualitative data. Two menstrual management interventions were considered in this study: provision of sustainable menstrual products and provision of menstrual cycle education. The study was carried out from April to July 2020 in the Sofala province of central Mozambique with residents of four resettlement centers (Mandruzi, Cura, Ndedja, and Guara-guara) in the districts of Dondo, Nhamatanda, and Buzi. Focus groups were conducted with participants pre- and post-intervention.
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*We use the word female to denote the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova). At the MH Hub, the term 'female health' is used to capture the experiences related to the presence of the menstrual cycle and the specific health issues an individual may face over their life cycle as a result.  We recognize that not all women menstruate, and not all who menstruate identify with being a woman, and strongly advocate for the inclusion of diverse voices, identities and bodies in discussions around female and menstrual health.

Copyright © 2020, Menstrual Health Hub gUG, All rights reserved.

The Menstrual Health Hub (MH Hub) is a female health impact organization focused on ecosystem-building, knowledge sharing and high-level advocacy around menstrual health worldwide. Menstrual Health Hub gUG (haftungsbeschränkt) is a German nonprofit-enterprise company (limited liability)  

MH Hug UG is a strategic consulting agency specializing in gender and female health.
 MH Hub UG (haftungsbeschränkt) is an German enterprise company (limited liability). Both companies are registered at Factory Berlin, 76/77 Rheinsbergerstraße, 10115 Berlin, Germany. 


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