Shattering Menstrual Stigma in South Asia

Nuns in Bhutan sit in red robes, heads shaved, attending a menstrual health workshop

Nuns in Bhutan attend a menstrual health workshop.

Did you know that almost 45% of girls in Bhutan report missing school due to menstruation (UNICEF and the Ministry of Education of Bhutan 2018)?

Across South Asia and the world, girls miss out on a full education and limit their potential due to a lack of sanitary supplies and adequate facilities. Deeply rooted menstrual stigma and patriarchal norms cripple their confidence, and even put their lives at risk.

READ Centers are using their position as trusted, foundational platforms for local development to address entrenched issues like menstrual stigma. READ’s enduring approach allows Centers to engage individuals, families, and whole communities over generations to empower them to solve local problems and foster more fulfilling futures. Under committed local leadership, READ Centers are creating communities in which all girls, women, and people who menstruate can live their lives with dignity and embrace their body without shame.

In Nepal, Samjhana learned about gender and social equality at her local READ Center through the Tech Age Girls program. It was through these sessions that she realized she had to do something about the traditional practice of Chhaupadi, which requires menstruating girls and women to isolate and sleep outdoors during menstruation, leaving them at risk of sexual abuse, animal attack, and hypothermia. While Chhaupadi has been outlawed by the Nepali government and the subject of national advocacy efforts, attitudes and practices in her village had not changed. But leading by example, Samjhana was able to change the mind of her family and many others in the neighborhood. Watch the brief video below to learn more about her efforts to ensure all women and girls can live a life free from Chhaupadi.



Across Bhutan, India, and Nepal, READ Centers are working to ensure that everyone who menstruates has access to the information they need and affordable menstrual hygiene products. With support from the Canadian Government’s Fund for Local Initiatives and Days for Girls Australia and International, READ Bhutan has worked to bring awareness and education on menstrual health and hygiene to more than 2,500 students and nuns from more than 13 schools and 3 nunneries in 7 districts in Bhutan. They’ve broken down the stigma surrounding menstruation and empowered youth and women with the knowledge and resources they need to manage their periods with confidence and dignity. READ Bhutan has also distributed reusable menstrual kits from Days for Girls to more than 1,500 young women since 2017. READ Centers in Nepal are conducting similar initiatives that utilize their basic stitching and sewing classes to produce reusable pads for local girls in need. For example, at the Moti Center in Parbat, local women produced more than 10,000 reusable pads that were distributed to 1,300 local girls and teachers at 9 schools.

READ India and its network of Centers are also ensuring that menstruation does not keep any girl from attending school. In Aurangabad, Maharashtra, READ India has built 24 toilets for female students in government schools, a response to the discovery that inadequate facilities were a major factor in absenteeism during menstrual periods. Additionally, READ India has equipped 1,200 community health workers with the skills to assist in menstrual management and conducted adolescent health workshops across its network of over 50 READ Centers reaching thousands of young women.

An Indian woman wearing basic PPE over her sari works with a small machine to help manufacture sanitary productsIn Haryana and Telangana, READ India has supplied five women’s groups at READ Centers with machines to produce sanitary pads. This not only improves access to essential menstrual hygiene products but also creates income-generating opportunities for local women and READ Centers (pictured, right).

Thank you for your support of READ Centers and the communities that own them as they tackle menstrual stigma and the other critical challenges facing their communities.

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