The Japanese company is using its best know-how to pursue various education activities and create work sites while expanding products and services suited to each country and region’s characteristics. Overcoming these issues so that women can achieve independence and the ability to actively participate in society are important not only from the perspective of achieving a gender equal society, but also to eliminate poverty and further advance economic conditions, according to the company, and increasing women’s awareness of hygiene also has the added effect of improving the living environment and health of families.
“In Myanmar, the population living in urban areas constitutes 30% of the entire population and the remaining 70% live in small rural villages. The reality is that the awareness to stay hygienic during the menstrual cycle is not widespread,” says Yasutaka Nishioka, marketing manager MYCARE Unicharm. “Many live without adequate information concerning menstruation, and they live in an environment where parents and friends around them do not have a custom of using sanitary products and they have no information coming from other sources such as television. This time, we conducted classes on menarche for students and their mothers at multiple schools for the first time. In the future, we will continue our educational and promotional activities concerning knowledge about menstruation and how to care for it. We hope to contribute to the social promotion of Myanmar women through our activities.”
Missing School During Menstruation
In Myanmar, many students do not go to school when their menstruation begins because its mechanism is not well known. This is one of the social problems many educators voice concerns about, saying, “many schoolgirls suffer from lower academic achievement because they miss classes during menstruation and this negatively impacts women’s empowerment.”
To help these girls, Unicharm is organizing the menarche program for schoolgirls in Myanmar in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Organization for International Cooperation and Family Planning (JOICFP). This has led to the development of Myanmar’s first menarche educational material officially approved by the government. Based on the material for Japanese schoolgirls, these materials have changed the illustrations and expression to something locally relatable, and have included adjustments that take into account cultural factors.
Unicharm hopes that this will increase the rate of sanitary pad usage, which is currently about 30% in Myanmar as a whole and 20% in non-urban areas. In fact, not using sanitary products is the main cause for school girls missing school during menstruation. Creating a foundation for these students so that they can actively participate in society in the future will be achieved through the spread of knowledge about how to appropriately to handle menstruation.
In 2016, Unicharm moved from training local educators to the implementation phase using the educational material and conducted menarche education to a total of 6100 schoolgirls in five test regions. This includes the distribution of sanitary pads to them so that they can experience appropriate care. After carefully reviewing the content while referencing the feedback received from the participating schoolgirls, their parents/guardians, educators, etc., Unicharm completed the final version of the menarche educational material, which has been approved by the Health and Sports ministry.
According to Unicharm’s research, many schoolgirls who received the menarche education said they learned many things for the first time allowing them to gain correct knowledge of menstruation. They also found out that more than 70% wanted to use sanitary pads.
Menarche Education in India
Since 2013, 120,000 students have attended a menarche education program in India. Called Managing Menstruation: My Pride, the program helps girls stay sanitary and remain active with confidence during their menstrual cycle.
In 2016, Unicharm conducted educational programs about menarche using regional public halls in addition to the programs already in place at schools. The trainers in charge of the class aims to resolve the insecurities that arise in reaction to the onset of menstruation and general bodily changes that take place during adolescence by directly talking to the 8 to 18-year-old girls that gather in these public halls after school. In addition to resolving their insecurities, they are engaged in correcting past beliefs including those such as “the body stops growing with the onset of menstruation” and “you should not enter a temple during the menstrual cycle.”