“Initiatives to improve menstrual hygiene will only have a lasting impact if the communities are involved and support the cause,” says Mahbuba Kumkum in an interview. Kumkum is Program Manager of Ritu, promoting menstrual hygiene management in Bangladesh.

Mahbuba Kumkum spoke at the Share-Net Bangladesh meeting observing Menstrual Hygiene Management Day, on the subject of sustainability of community interventions in Bangladesh. Though the main target group is adolescent girls, involving boys and men is an important aspect in order to give priority to women’s needs and demands at family level.

Another requirement for sustainability is linking information with services and product availability. “Information on hygiene and sanitary napkins, for instance, is useless if the product is not available, for example in rural areas,” explains Kumkum.

Part of the Ritu Project is a school campaign, that includes all aspects of school; from facilities to sensitized and trained teachers and from counseling support to extra curriculum activities and sensitized students. Kumkum: “Facilities alone will not improve the situation for girls, just like training alone is not enough. This is why the ‘whole-school-approach’ is effective”.

Ritu is about breaking taboos and changing practice. “With this project we will gradually replace myths around menstruation. Creating mass awareness is an important part of this. Effectively we will overcome the existing myths and tell the girls and boys in Bangladesh the real story.”

Ritu is a project of Simavi, TNO and RedOrange Media and Communications, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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