May 28 of every year is Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), and 2023 marked a global commitment to break the silence and end the stigma surrounding menstruation. With the theme “Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030”, civil society organisations and state institutions from around the globe united this year to address the issue.

MH Day serves as a powerful platform to emphasise the significance of proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM). The website of Menstrual Hygiene Day, a worldwide movement, highlights the challenges faced by over 800 million women and girls who menstruate. From accessing education to income inequality and limited participation in daily life, these obstacles hinder their wellbeing.

Recognising the urgency, MH Day has chosen to destigmatise menstruation by 2030 as the focus for this year’s campaign. Currently, countless women and girls endure discrimination and stigma simply because they menstruate.

The campaign stresses that such treatment is unacceptable as menstruation is a natural bodily function. The website advocates for inclusive education and full participation in daily life, irrespective of menstruation.

In 2013, the German-based non-profit WASH United established Menstrual Hygiene Day, with a 28-day social media campaign aimed at raising awareness. Responding positively, the inaugural celebration took place on May 28, 2014, featuring gatherings, exhibitions, workshops and speeches.

Yi Kimthan, deputy country director for Plan International Cambodia (PIC), explained that this date aligns with the average 28-day menstrual cycle of women and girls who menstruate on average five days per month.

Cambodia, in partnership with PIC, has promoted MH Day for four consecutive years to break the taboos and raise awareness about menstruation.

For Kimthan, MH Day acts as a global advocacy forum, challenging negative social norms and promoting menstrual hygiene awareness. Kimthan emphasises the importance of educating both boys and girls about menstrual periods in order to eradicate harmful stigmas and misconceptions.

In honour of this day, PIC collaborates with relevant institutions on various grassroots projects. These initiatives aim to promote awareness and provide convenient facilities such as pour-flush toilets and essential hygiene materials for women and girls.

Lon Say Teng, director of the Department of Rural Healthcare at the Ministry of Rural Development, stressed that neglecting menstrual hygiene perpetuates women’s exclusion from education, employment and social development. He urges open discussions and widespread knowledge about menstrual hygiene while emphasising the need for continued support from development partners.

On MH Day, Teng congratulates and fully supports women and girls during this fundamental phase of their lives. Acknowledging the health risks and potential infertility and disease resulting from neglecting menstrual health, he encourages breaking the taboos and embracing open conversations about menstruation.