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Half of Humanity: Healthy Menstruation for Female Refugees

The organization Half of Humanity is working to combat an issue that often gets swept under the rug: unhealthy menstrual practices within refugee populations.

The organization’s most recent efforts have been teaming up with NuDay Syria to provide culturally appropriate feminine hygiene products to Syrian refugees. The kit includes a one-month supply of absorbent pads, wipes, soap, two doses of ibuprofen, candies and a handwritten note in Arabic that says, “You are beautiful!”

While other organizations share the goal of promoting healthy menstruation in vulnerable populations, Half of Humanity takes a culturally sensitive approach. For example, Syrian culture condemns the use of tampons, which is why none are included in the hygiene kit. All of the candies are halal out of respect for practicing Muslims.

Half of Humanity’s aid has concentrated primarily on displaced female populations in the Middle East and North Africa, where women are particularly vulnerable to stigma as well as unhealthy menstrual practices. Refugees who cannot afford hygienic products in these low-income areas are likely to use unsanitary alternatives to hide their menstruation, such as unclean rags, grass or even trash.

The organization’s mission in target areas is critical. For example, in 2012, 51 percent of displaced Syrian women in Jordan experienced symptoms of a reproductive tract infection. Improper menstrual practices can also increase chances of HIV and pregnancy complications.

Menstruation also limits many women’s societal engagement. Studies conducted in Africa have shown that many girls consistently miss out on important opportunities such as schooling every month because public areas lack proper sanitation facilities.

Brianna Curran, the founder of Half of Humanity, hopes to enable female refugees to engage in civil action regardless of where they are in the menstrual cycle. Curran has received much recognition for her dedication to the cause, including a spot on the “30 under 30” list of remarkable young people working towards development, sustainability and human rights, created by the Center for Development and Strategy.

While Half of Humanity’s goals are constantly shifting to meet the needs of target populations, its overall impact has served to empower female refugees in both North Africa and the Middle East to engage with the rest of society all days of the month.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr