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May 2019

Why menstrual hygiene isn't just a women's issue

Written by Lemay Rogers
Cleanliness and Hygiene, Feminine Hygiene

Tomorrow (28th of  May) is Menstrual Hygiene Day!

Initiated in 2014 by WASH United and the UN, this day is celebrated annually to raise awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene.

If you’ve been a blog subscriber for a while you will know that menstrual hygiene is a topic that is close to our hearts.  Not only because we care about feminine hygiene, but because we care about women’s health and about educating the youth about menstruation. As a society, we need to continue debunking the myths around this taboo topic and create ‘safe spaces’ where people can openly discuss menstruation.

You might have noticed that my comment about education implies that we educate EVERYONE. This was intentional: we believe that menstruation is a topic on which both men and women should be educated.

1. Men have girl-children too

50% of the world’s population is female.  If you’re planning a family, you have a one in two chance that you’ll welcome a baby girl into the world.  As a loving, caring Dad I’m sure you’d agree that your daughter’s health is a top priority to you. And as your daughter approaches puberty, conversations around good feminine hygiene will become more frequent and should involve both Mom and Dad.

Supporting your daughter during her menstrual cycle will become a part of your life.  You may contribute to her menstrual hygiene by buying her sanitary pads (which you will be happy to know are now VAT zero-rated in South Africa) or you may be part of ‘the talk’ that educates her about what’s happening to her body and what it all means, so you’ll need to be prepared.  I’d recommend you read up on the topic and ensure you’re comfortable enough to have an open conversation and that you are able to direct your daughter to helpful and factual resources.

If you have a household of only boy-children, I’d recommend you have this talk with them anyway.  It’s important for boys to be educated on the topic so that they can support their female friends and colleagues by being respectful, especially if there is a mishap at school.

Menstruation is a normal part of life

2. The incorrect disposal of sanitary waste puts ALL OF US at risk

It’s not something we think about every day, but the correct disposal of sanitary waste is essential to our health and well being.  

The bottom line is that sanitary waste is a blood product that could contain bloodborne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis B.  Whether at home or at work, it is very important that you minimise the points of contact with sanitary waste and dispose of these items responsibly.

We covered the topic earlier this year in Does your business comply to sanitary waste disposal regulations?

“The Occupational Health & Safety Act, 85 of 1993 states that commercial or industrial volumes of sanitary waste may not enter the general municipal waste stream and commercial sanitary waste must therefore follow the requirements for Healthcare Risk Waste (HRW).  

What this means is that only domestic sanitary waste (that produced at home, for example) can go via municipal rubbish trucks to a municipal landfill. The volume of waste produced by an office or business has to be handled differently.”  

How do you dispose of your sanitary wares at home safely?

  1. If you use sanitary pads, fold the pad in half so that the sticky side is on the outside.
  2. Wrap the pad or other disposable sanitary wares in toilet paper and place it in the wrapper for your new pad (if you use sanitary pads) or a paper packet for other disposable sanitary wares (if available).
  3. Discard the wrapped sanitary item into a waste bin that has a tight-fitting and is lined with a refuse bag.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  5. Empty the waste bin at least every second day into your main (outside) refuse bin to prevent odour.

What do I do at work?

According to the Occupational Health & Safety Act, 85 of 1993, commercial or industrial volumes of sanitary waste may not be disposed of with your general municipal waste.  

The National Regulations on Health Care Risk Waste (NEMWA, act 59 of 2008) require that this waste must be pre-treated to inert status or, alternatively, autoclaved and then shredded. This waste is then deemed harmless and needs to be disposed of at a hazardous landfill site by a licensed waste disposal contractor.  

This means that you must have feminine hygiene disposal units in your bathroom at work, which affords you the opportunity to dispose of your sanitary waste safely and responsibly. Download our posters on feminine hygiene waste disposal methods for your office.

If you don’t have sanitary waste disposal units in your bathrooms at work, or you are worried about your organisation’s compliance regarding safe disposal, contact Initial for your free survey.  Initial is a registered Waste Carrier and will provide you with a Certificate of disposal.

3. As a boss, the wellness of your employees is your responsibility - no matter what gender you are

We know that feminine hygiene and the safe disposal of sanitary waste is important to minimise the risk of illness. As an employer, this becomes even more important, as you need to safeguard the wellbeing of both your female employees and any  male cleaners that may be exposed to the sanitary waste. Ultimately, you want to reduce any risk to your team’s productivity so that you can continue to conduct your business as usual.

I’d recommend you take a few minutes to read THAT AWKWARD QUESTION: How to tell your male boss you need new feminine hygiene units if this is a gap in your business and you need to have a conversation with the Office Manager or other decision makers.

Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day for tomorrow! But make sure that you spread the message of good feminine hygiene practices every day.

Looking to spread awareness about common myths and beliefs around menstrual hygiene? Here are some posters we created to help educate children and adults alike about common misconceptions around menstrual hygiene.

Do your girls miss school because they don't have or don't know how to use feminine hygiene products?

Every girl has the right to feel comfortable at school, and it's a fact: girls get periods! That's why, as part of our Hygiene Angels initiative, we've created these downloadable posters for you to stick up in school bathrooms to help young girls understand how to use feminine hygiene products correctly to remain healthy, clean, and safe.

clean bathroom posters download

Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial's Sub-Saharan Africa region. When not contributing to the Rentokil Initial blogs, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial Sub-Saharan Africa. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a pre-schooler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on LinkedIn for practical pest control advice and good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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The Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal from the experts in hygiene, Initial Hygiene South Africa

Download our Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal

Ensure that your organisation meets the legal requirements for the disposal of sanitary waste by learning what constitutes sanitary waste and how you should dispose of it, in this comprehensive guide on the subject.
Download Guide

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