Globally, 1 in 10 women faces menstrual insecurity. Multiple factors are at stake: the lack of access to toilets or poor sanitation, little to no access to menstrual hygiene products, cultural practices, and menstrual taboos, etc. Associations mobilize worldwide to address this issue with one common goal: to change attitudes about menstruation.

It is often difficult for many women to buy menstrual hygiene products. However, the lack of resources is not the only root cause, as many women lack access to clean water, are faced with unsanitary toilets, and have no access to quality and readily available products. Today, around 500 million girls and women struggle to manage their menstruation under sanitary conditions.

In most countries, public healthcare rarely covers expenses related to menstrual hygiene, although they are a first need. This creates an economic inequality between menstruating women and people who have other basic health needs.. In addition to hygiene products, women often need to purchase painkillers, new underwear, and clothes and pay for their doctor’s appointments.

Illustration by the Gouttes Rouges association showing two menstruating women.
Artwork created by the association “Gouttes Rouges” (red drops), headquartered in Abidjan.


Aside from the financial aspect of menstrual insecurity, women face several taboos in many communities due to cultural and religious traditions, especially in Africa and Asia. In various cultures, parents, family members, or traditional authorities exclude girls and women from some spaces due to religious or cultural beliefs. In these areas, a woman on her period is considered unclean and may even be asked to refrain from participating in daily activities or attending school. Sometimes, her relatives may even expect her to leave the house until she is no longer on her period. One of the most prevalent misconceptions around menstruation is its association with impurity and, in some instances, with a curse. In sum, women and girls are considered personae non-gratae during their period.

According to UNESCO, one in ten girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses class during her period, which equates to 20% of her school year. Girls also miss school due to

  • their communities’ poor facilities and equipment,
  • the restrictions around their free movements during their periods,
  • the sense of shame and “uncleanliness” that people associate with them.

Finally, it is also important to mention that, in many countries, when a girl has her first period, her relatives become concerned with the risk of early pregnancy. Hence, it is still widespread for parents to force their daughters to drop out of school after their first period to prevent teenage pregnancy.


In the capital of Mauritania, the Reproductive Health Initiative has been running a project on menstrual hygiene since August 2022, with the support of Feminists in Action. This project aims to train 10 young women (aged 19 to 29) on reproductive health while raising their awareness of family planning, the importance of menstrual health, and women’s rights in Mauritania.

The project’s beneficiaries also learn to make reusable sanitary pads. So far, they have already made 300 reusable pads, some of which will be donated to inmates of the women’s prison in Nouakchott. The ten-women group will also produce 2000 pads that will either be donated or sold, which will help them earn an extra income in the long run.


In Côte d’Ivoire, the Gouttes Rouges association (red drops) fights menstrual insecurity with a project that sponsors 100 young girls with the support of Feminists in Action. The project holds a club rouge (red club) every Wednesday afternoon for young girls from various schools. This weekly club meeting is a free space for participants to exchange on menstruation and sexuality.

The association set up the Banques Rouges (Red Bank) to give away menstrual hygiene products to young girls from financially vulnerable backgrounds. Thanks to this relieving concept, girls do not have to worry about essential menstrual products and can continue their education without stress. Therefore, the banques rouges help ensure that girls do not disrupt their school life during their period.

In parallel, the association often visits local institutions to help build or renovate safe and well-equipped bathrooms.

However, the fight against menstrual insecurity is not over. Associations are relentlessly addressing this critical issue so that all women and girls can deal with their periods without shame, free of taboos!

Click here to learn more about the projects supported by Feminists in Action!