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Menstrual hygiene matters for refugee girls

Plan International Rwanda is working with female refugees from Burundi to access education, safe spaces and to help them manage their periods safely.

Adolescent girl in Mahama refugee camp
Plan International Rwanda has provided over 3,600 ‪women‬ with undergarments and sanitary pads.

Having fled their home country due to political violence and instability, girls from Burundi based in refugee reception centres and camps in Rwanda encounter many difficulties, but having little knowledge about their reproductive health makes their lives even harder.

In the first days of being in the camp I faced many challenges like lack of sanitary pads

In many low-income countries, women and girls still face serious challenges when it comes to managing their periods. Menstruation without underwear nor sanitary pads is one of the most difficult challenges a ‪woman can face, especially during a conflict or natural disaster when sanitary products and private sanitation facilities are scarce.

Plan International staff talk with adolescent girls in Mahama refugee camp
Plan International Rwanda with partner UNHCR is working to support girls to manage their periods through social therapy in safe spaces.

More than 10,000 ‪Burundian ‪refugee women and girls in ‪Rwanda are currently grappling with poor sanitation and hygiene, making menstrual hygiene management extremely difficult. To support this, Plan International Rwanda has provided 3,668 ‪women with undergarments and sanitary pads to date.

A girl from Burundi who has been living in Rwanda for 1 year attending a Plan International child-friendly space, says:

“In the first days of being here in the camp I faced many challenges like lack of sanitary pads, soaps and underwear. These materials prevented me from going to school and playing with others, now we are getting these materials from Plan international Rwanda, which makes us happy, we can play with others, attend school classes daily and feel comfortable all the time.”

In addition to supporting women and girls with sexual reproductive health management, adolescent girls in refugee camps are part of Plan International youth groups taking action against sexual and gender-based violence, using sports and entertainment to bring together the refugee and host community and raise awareness.

Adolescent girl carrying water in Mahama Refugee Camp
A lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene impacts greatly on girls, women and vulnerable groups during and after conflicts and emergencies.

Plan International is working to support delivery of the Global Goals to advance the lives for children and their communities. While there is no specific goal or indicator related to menstrual hygiene management, menstruation matters to several of the Global Goals and their targets, including achieving good health and well-being, ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, especially women and girls in vulnerable situations. 

Adolescent girl in Mahama Refugee Camp
Plan International Rwanda is educating girls and women on their reproductive health and how to practice safe menstrual hygiene.

Learn more about Plan International’s work supporting girls during emergencies