collage with the participants of the webinar

Collage with the participants of the webinar on Menstrual Hygiene Day

The webinar brought together key speakers from various faiths and backgrounds, including Annette Torjesen from Norwegian Church Aid; Patricia Mulongo, a champion for menstrual health management for people with disabilities; Rabbi Talia Kaplan, an advocate for disability justice and menstrual health within Jewish law; Elizabeth Oluchi, who works with the Association of Positive Youths living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria; and Ronnie Shaqia, an advocate from the Young Women’s Christian Association in Nepal, who shared her journey and the challenges faced by young women in her community related to menstrual health and hygiene.

In his keynote speech, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata underscored the urgent need to address the persistent challenges faced by 3.5 billion women and girls globally due to period poverty. "Millions of women suffer from period poverty, lacking access to menstrual products, sanitation facilities, and the education needed to manage menstrual health," said Mtata. "By reinterpreting certain biblical texts in empowering ways, the church can greatly contribute to removing the stigma associated with menstruation. However, our challenge is about more than just culture or religion. Some of the challenges that we have to address are practical.”

Torjesen shared stories from the field, illustrating the transformative impact of providing water and sanitation facilities. "In Tanzania, providing wells and water pumps in schools has allowed girls to attend school with dignity. Working with religious leaders has been pivotal in raising awareness and changing perceptions about menstruation," said Torjesen.

Mulongo, founder of Deaf Women Empowerment in Kenya and a member of the WCC
Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network, emphasized the unique challenges faced by women with disabilities, such as the lack of information about menstrual hygiene. “I think we can work better to make society uplift the lives of people with disabilities so that they feel equal," Mulongo stated.

Oluchi, living with HIV, expressed her frustration that the HIV+ women and girls are doubly discriminated in the society during their menstruation period, for stigma and taboos associated with both.

The webinar underscored the importance of interfaith collaboration in addressing menstrual health issues. The WCC, in partnership with Norwegian Church Aid and the International Partnership of Religion and Sustainable Development, continues to advocate for policies and programs that ensure access to affordable menstrual products, clean water, and sanitation facilities.