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Columbia and UNICEF co-host Virtual Conference on Menstrual Hygiene Management

The 6th Annual Virtual Conference on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Schools, co-hosted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and UNICEF, brings together academics, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies and the private sector and provides an opportunity to share the latest research and programming from around the world on menstrual hygiene management. Experts from a variety of policy areas, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, gender, sexual and reproductive health and adolescent development will also be represented at the virtual conference.

[Photo: Dr. Marni Sommer]

This year’s theme, “MHM and WASH: Supporting a gender-responsive learning environment,” aims to highlight national examples of supportive WASH in schools enabling environments that ensure that schools are ready for girls. Over 1,000 participants are expected to come together online October 17th from over 90 countries around the world.

A growing body of evidence has demonstrated the many challenges menstruating girls face in school environments. These include a lack of adequate, clean, safe, private toilets with water and disposal mechanisms for used menstrual materials, a lack of information, guidance and support on their changing bodies and new menstrual management needs, and insufficient materials for managing monthly menstrual flow. Increasing interest has led to a large range of actors engaging on the issue of MHM in schools around the world, suggesting the need to identify a common vision and set of priorities to transform the school environment for menstruating girls and female teachers.

“The conference will continue to fill in the gaps in the existing knowledge and advocacy around this important issue, focusing on the five priorities identified for transforming MHM in schools by 2024,” said Dr. Marni Sommer, associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, and the conference organizer. In 2014, UNICEF and Columbia University co-hosted the inaugural MHM in Ten meeting, with the objective of mapping out a ten-year agenda for MHM in schools. The participants identified five priorities to help dramatically improve MHM by 2024, which the MHM in Ten network has continued to track each year, to mark progress and ongoing gaps.

The Virtual Conference also enables the global sharing of new ideas and ‘lessons learned’, and connects people working on MHM in schools in a wide range of countries.  This gives online participants an opportunity to network, discuss key issues of relevance for advancing the agenda of MHM in schools, and identify potential future collaborations beyond their usual organizational or geographical boundaries.

As in previous years, the conference will be live-streamed, and for the first time, the virtual conference will be streaming live from the 2017 Water and Health Conference organized by The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina. Attendance in-person will be available for those registered to the UNC Conference.

All conference sessions are recorded and posted at the end of the event here: https://www.mhmvirtualconference.com/previous-conferences/