Chencho Dema | Punakha 

“Advocacy and my teachers’ guidance helped me to be independent and be able to change my sanitary pads, wash them, and dispose them properly,” Ugyen Lhamo, 20, a student with disability said.

The class 9 student of Khuruthang Middle Secondary School in Punakha said that due to the efforts of the relevant authorities, she is now able to change her sanitary pads and complete all of her daily tasks independently.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development, and partners observed the Menstrual Hygiene Day at the school in Punakha yesterday.

This year the Red Dot Bhutan advocates inclusive WASH facilities with the menstrual hygiene needs for girls and women with disabilities across the country with the theme: “Equity for red hygiene, making menstruation a normal fact of life”

This year Menstruation Hygiene Day event took place in Punakha as a pilot initiative to expand advocacy outside Thimphu.

Karma Wangchuk, the Chief of School Health and Nutrition Division with the education ministry said, since Thimphu has embraced the issue, the ministry now is extending efforts beyond to reach the unreachable.

“Next year, our focus will be in the East. Every year, the theme is changed and the location will also change. Menstruation is still considered taboo in rural areas,” he said.

He said that the ministry has started the initiative and has lots to do to make every woman and girl especially those with disabilities comfortable with the issue and also give them better facilities.

The ministry is working with development partners to replicate inclusive toilets across the schools in the country.

To date, the ministry has constructed inclusive toilets at Changangkha MSS in Thimphu, Khuruthang MSS in Punakha, Zhemgang PS, Damphu MSS in Tsirang, Gelephu LSS, Tsenkharla CS in Trashiyangtse, and Autsho CS in Lhuentse.

UNICEF representative to Bhutan Andrea Pauline James said, “We are here because we are in solidarity with our girls and women with disabilities who face more challenges in managing menstruation than others.”

“Every day, let us reaffirm our commitment to the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls with disabilities. By understanding and addressing the challenges they face, and ensuring their access to education, sanitary products, facilities, and healthcare, we can create a society where every individual can fully participate and thrive,” she said.

Khuruthang MSS’ inclusive toilet for SEN was inaugurated as part of the event to mark the day. Punakha is one of the eight dzongkhags in the country with an inclusive toilet.

Punakha has 85 persons with disabilities, 25 of whom are female.

Tshering Lhamo, 21, a student at the Draktsho Vocational Training Centre in Thimphu, shared her experience with the audience. “Changing pads when on your period is difficult when your hands aren’t working and you have to use your legs instead of your hands,” she said.

“People make fun of me and my blood-stained clothes. Treat us like any other everyday person. We can do anything that a regular person can. Simply the difference between what is feasible and what is not,” she said.

Tshering Lhamo’s sister Sonam Zangmo, 28, described her experiences as a carer for a disabled sibling. “Instead of confining disabled people inside a house, people should step forward and offer assistance. Given the chance and exposure, they are capable of anything. My sister is leading by example,” she said,

As of 2022, Annual Education Statistics, there are 381 Girls with SEN. Meanwhile, 37 Schools across the country are catering to SEN.

Only 17 percent of monastic institutions, 19 percent of SEN schools, and 31 percent of healthcare facilities toilets are appropriate for persons with mobility/vision disability.

UNICEF in partnership with the MoESD distributed 2,000 menstrual cups, 17,000 reusable sanitary pads, 500 sanitary tampons, and 5,000 disposable sanitary pads to 139 schools across the country in 2022.

Menstrual Hygiene Day was first observed globally on May 28 in 2014. Bhutan started observing the day in 2015.

The event was attended by Punakha dzongdag, representatives from the education and health ministries, SNV, civil society organisations, the Central Monastic Body, teachers, and students of Khuruthang MSS.

Photo: Punakha Dzongdag, UNICEF Bhutan representative and SEN students inaugurate the inclusive toilet at Khuruthang MSS


Message from Royal Patron for Menstrual Hygiene Day

Her Royal Highness Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck

Red Dot Bhutan:  May 28, 2023

I have a profound understanding of the vulnerabilities that menstruation entails during adolescence. Gender inequality, social norms, taboos, poverty, and lack of services hinder menstrual health. The plight of women with disabilities, who face the dual burden of societal stigma surrounding both their gender and disability, touches me profoundly. While Bhutan has made commendable progress in enhancing sanitation in schools and monastic institutions, it is imperative that we push further and make these facilities accessible to disabled girls and women. On Menstrual Hygiene Day, I urge the government, partners, and individuals to prioritize inclusiveness in planning and infrastructure. Let’s prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable, ensuring inclusive WASH services for menstrual hygiene in Bhutan’s present and future.