Plan International Australia and Modibodi have joined forces to ensure thousands of girls and women in Southeast Asia can access safe and sustainable period products, live free from period stigma and participate more fully in daily life – including their education!
Periods are a natural and normal part of daily life, but for many they are also a source of stress, shame and stigma. In many communities around the world, cultural beliefs perpetuate the idea that menstruation is taboo. For girls, this can translate into discrimination, difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene products and schools not providing rubbish bins to dispose of sanitary products, all of which impedes girls’ ability to comfortably take part in activities, attend school and receive an education.
Together, Plan International – a leading non-profit organization dedicated to equality for girls, and Modibodi – a brand known for its sustainable and reusable period products, are well equipped to break down taboos and empower girls and women to manage their periods safely and with dignity.
Following the success of the initial partnership in 2020 that saw 300 girls and women in the Indonesian province of West Nusa Tenggara supplied with 1000 pairs of reusable period underwear, Modibodi and Plan International Australia expanded the project, and this year will deliver 4,400 packs of Modibodi underwear to girls and women in Laos – a total of 22,000 pairs.
The provision of these packs (each containing five pairs of period pants in a waterproof bag) is an effective way to prevent girls from missing out on school when they have their period, while also reducing local waste.
This initiative is being integrated with Plan International’s existing Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) program in the Saravan and Oudomxay provinces of Laos. The program operates in 100 local communities, to ensure children and their families have access to basic sanitation. The program also focuses on reducing period stigma and period poverty by improving knowledge and attitudes around menstrual health.
As part of the first phase of the program, Plan International Laos, together with Laos Solidarity, have delivered a three-day Training of Trainers workshop designed to equip government partners with improved knowledge about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), enabling them to facilitate education sessions with local girls and women.
In Laos, menstruation is a sensitive subject that many women and girls feel uncomfortable discussing, but research shows that if girls have the opportunity to talk about periods openly, they can be better prepared and feel more comfortable during their period.
Using innovative games and teaching techniques that facilitators can apply in their own sessions, the training encourages a healthy dialogue around menstruation and personal experiences, and tackles a range of topics from puberty and the basics of menstruation, to teaching participants good menstrual hygiene practices and how to track their cycles.
Together, Modibodi and Plan International are improving knowledge of and attitudes towards menstruation and providing women and girls with access to safe and sustainable period products, so that they can live free from period poverty and stigma.
Thiphaphone works with the Saravan District Health Office in the Mother and Child Health Division and has previously completed training in menstrual hygiene management, but nothing as in-depth as the one facilitated by Plan International and Laos Solidarity.
“This training on MHM has been comprehensive and so useful,” she says. “I am really impressed with the yoga poses to help relieve period cramps. I never knew that yoga poses would help. Even as someone who studied nursing, I only knew of using a hot water bottle and taking painkillers to ease cramps.”
“Another new thing that I have learned this week is the existence of period pants! I never imagined that such a product existed and that underpants that are so ‘normal looking’ like this will prevent leaking. Many years ago, I tried to use a regular cloth while I had my period, but on heavy days it leaked on me. But these Modibodi pants have built-in lining that prevents leaking, I am really looking forward to trying them myself.”
Thiphaphone feels quite confident that she will be able to share what she has learned from the training with women and girls in the target villages in her district.
“I think the lessons will be invaluable because many teenage girls do not know how to properly manage their hygiene during periods, or how to hygienically dispose of their used sanitation pads,” Thiphaphone says. “I think that young women, especially young women who don’t have a lot of money will really like this Modibodi product. I think they will be interested to learn about the period cycle calendar too.”
The second phase of the project is about to get underway in Saravan and Oudomxay province, and will see the distribution of Modibodi products and copies of Laos Solidarity’s ‘I am a Teenager’ puberty guide to 4,400 girls and young women in secondary schools and communities.
The Training of Trainers workshops will continue to be delivered by those who have already been trained in delivering the MHM training, ensuring this powerful, evidence-based menstrual health knowledge is shared and communicated to girls and women by other local women in their own communities.
Stay tuned for further updates as this exciting and innovative program rolls out over 2022!