Measuring Menstruation- a big step forward for womankind
We’re thrilled to have been part of a ground-breaking piece of work led by Dr Julie Hennegan at John Hopkins University to develop a new tool to measure girls’ experiences of menstruation, the Menstrual Practice Needs Scale. The paper’s just, the academically inclined among you can read it here and you can access all the tools and resources here.
Why are we so excited?
At Irise, we’re always looking for ways to measure what matters. Girls’ experiences of menstruation matter and the Menstrual Practice Needs Scale is a powerful tool in the following ways:
1. Building the Case
We know that girls’ period perceptions and practices are impacting on their education, health and wellbeing, reinforced by a broader environment of negative stereotypes and unsupportive structures that keep them silent and shameful. Those of us working on the issue know it in our bones, largely because we share the encompassing global period shame in different ways in our own lives. But, many of those with power and authority do not know it. They do not have first-hand experience of, and sometimes don’t even have second hand exposure to, the fear and indignity that girls around the world experience every month.
It is not enough to say that we know, if we want to effect long lasting social change we must use rigorous and objective evidence to demonstrate the need to act. Robust measures linked to existing priorities are difficult to ignore and this visionary piece of work is the missing link when it comes to measuring what matters about girls’ experiences of their periods.
2. Delivering impact
If we understand the problem, it’s easy to think we know how to solve it, but people’s experiences are complex. The Menstrual Practice Needs Scale will help us track change, enabling us to develop interventions that are genuinely responsive to the needs of the people we serve. Never assume that what you’re doing works. We owe it women, girls and other menstruators to measure carefully and make sure we never make the same mistake twice. This work will help the sector standardise its measures and definitions so that we can track change using a common tool, work out what works, and, most importantly, hold policymakers to account even after the public and policy agenda has moved on.
Other things we love about the work…
1. Putting women and girls at the centre
The tool is based on an extensive review of experiences of menstruation in low and middle income countries. (Access it here ) This means that the tool is rooted in what matters to women and girls. This is research done well- it is embedded in the voices of women and girls, voices easily and frequently overlooked when it comes to the political and social battle ground that is their bodies.
2. Women-led innovation
We wouldn’t be Irise if we didn’t give a thumbs up to the incredible women involved in this project. Julie is a woman with a mission- we can all learn from her grit and resilience in a competitive space. The project’s funder, The Case For Her, are a woman-led philanthropic investment portfolio who are willing to go where many fear to tread- namely female sexual pleasure and periods.
This project is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when women step out together to transform the status quo. Ultimately, measuring menstruation is a critical part of building a system that is fairer for everyone.