July 20, 2018

Wealthy, urban, educated. Who is represented in population surveys of women’s menstrual hygiene management?

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Authors: Julie Hennegan, Alexandra K Shannon, Kellogg J Schwab, PMA2020 Investigators

Journal: Reproductive Health Matters, 26(52). July 2018

Inadequate menstrual hygiene presents a barrier to women’s dignity and health. Recent attention to this marginalised challenge has resulted in the first national assessments of menstrual practices. Intuitively, surveys require women to have had a recent menses to be eligible. This study seeks to determine if there are demographic differences between women who are eligible and ineligible to answer questions about their menstrual hygiene during these assessments. Secondary analyses were undertaken on nationally or state representative data collected by the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 survey programme across eight countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, and Uganda). Female respondents were included in the study and compared on whether they had a menstrual period within the past three months and thus were eligible to answer questions regarding menstrual practices. On average, 29% of surveyed women across samples were ineligible to be asked menstrual hygiene questions. Higher levels of education, wealth, and urban residence were associated with higher odds of eligibility. Young and unmarried women were also more likely to be eligible. Demographic differences between eligible and ineligible women were consistent across all countries. Wealthy, urban, and educated women are more likely to be eligible to answer survey questions about menstrual hygiene. While population surveys may be representative of menstruating women, proportions of menstrual hygiene practices reported underrepresent the experiences of more vulnerable groups. These groups are likely to have greater struggles with menstrual hygiene when they are menstruating.