The importance of access to a supportive physical and social environment with access to accurate health and hygiene information for management of safe and dignified menstruation cannot be overstated, as these enable women to make informed choices about related care and hygiene practices. Challenges faced by women andgirls in practicing proper menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) are widely documented; in adequate access to safely managed water and sanitation facilities, lack of affordable menstrual hygiene products, and limited reproductive health services and social support are some of the underlying challenges that can cause adverse effect on women’s physical and mental well-being,and act as a barrier to their active participation for everyday activities. Therefore, ensuring good menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) is a key requirement for gender sensitive response to the COVID-19 crisis.
However, Bangladesh’s prevention and response plan for COVID-19 with an immediate action of nation-wide lockdown at the end of March 2020 overlooked the question of how women and girls would access the facilities and resources needed to manage their periods safely and privately under such restrictive conditions. Given that women’s specific health needs are often a lowpriority under normal circumstances, their necessity of essential MHH supplies and services may receive inadequate attention to prevention and response planning for the COVID-19.
During the first month of COVID-19 lockdown, WaterAid Bangladesh under took a study to understand how women and girls from different walks of life are managing their periods in a situation never faced before. Thirty women aged 15-45 were interviewed from the following categories – readymade garment (RMG) workers, low income community members, lower middle-income community members, rural community health clinic workers, and students. In addition, 14 pharmacy shopkeepers were interviewed to understand the impact on supply and sales of menstrual hygiene products during the lockdown.