Her Royal Highness (HRH) Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck became patron of Red Dot Bhutan campaign yesterday

Chhimi Dema 

A non-governmental organisation, Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) and the education ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote adolescent sexual health and rights, and menstrual health management among girls and adolescents. 

The MoU also aimed to combat sexual and gender-based violence, strengthen psychosocial support, and inform on myths and facts around sexual reproductive health and rights. 

With the signing of the MoU, the Red Dot Bhutan campaign to raise awareness on menstrual hygiene started yesterday. 

During the signing, the education secretary, Karma Tshering, said that Red Dot Bhutan evolved from the ministry’s effort to raise awareness on the challenges women and girls face due to menstruation, and the solutions to address the challenges. 

“Menstrual health management is aimed at improving outcomes on education, health, and gender equality for girls and women,” he said. 

He also said that menstrual health management was about supporting girls and women to have confidence, knowledge and skills to manage menstruation at home or away from home. 

“Studies and assessments have found the link between discomfort during menstruation, be it due to social taboos or poor sanitation facilities, as a cause of higher rates of school absenteeism among girls,” he said. 

A study by the education ministry and UNICEF on knowledge, attitude and practices of menstrual hygiene management of adolescent school girls and nuns in 2017 reported that 43 percent of the adolescent school girls missed school during menstruation. 

The study also reported that 33.2 percent of nuns stated that women in menstruation are susceptible to get possessed by evil spirits.

The first venture, to distribute reusable sanitary napkins to schools and nunneries, under the MoU was signed yesterday. 

As a pilot project, the reusable sanitary napkins will be distributed to girls in Genekha Lower Secondary School and Khasadrapchu Middle Secondary School in Thimphu. 

RENEW’s executive director, Tshering Dolkar, said that the launch of reusable sanitary napkin and other sanitary products were aimed to promote menstrual health and hygiene amongst girls in schools. 

“Through this programme, RENEW’s women’s cooperative will be engaged in the production of the reusable sanitary napkins that will help to generate income for their livelihood,” she said.

Her Royal Highness (HRH) Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck joined the call for menstrual health and hygiene as the patron of Red Dot Bhutan yesterday. 

Karma Tshering said HRH’s patronage will inspire, motivate and empower the team of Red Dot Bhutan and others to mainstream menstrual health management across the country and ensure the dignity of girls and women.

At the event, the United Nations Fund for Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that aims at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide, launched the State of World Population Report 2021 My Body is My Own in the country. 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the goodwill ambassador of UNFPA, launched the report. 

A special advisor of UNFPA Bhutan, Yeshey Dorji, said the report calls upon institutions and leaders to extend support and resources required for individual rights and choices to be carried out in a meaningful way.

The report was launched globally on April 14, 2021. 

Meanwhile, the government of Japan also donated a coaster bus to RENEW Vocational Training Centre.