Swedish global health and hygiene company Essity has extended its partnership with the global organization UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Fund) in Mexico with a three-year agreement to continue raising awareness, educating and taking action around good hygiene and breaking menstrual taboos.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Essity’s Helena Hansen explained that the company’s aim is to break down barriers to well-being and contribute to a healthy and sustainable society.

She said that taboos related to personal care and menstrual hygiene were “very dependent on where you live”. Globally, on average, 42% of women have abstained from school or work in the past year due to menstruation, with the highest number of respondents residing in India (77% ), Brazil (61%) and Mexico (59%). , Essity’s survey research showed. In Europe, this is the case for 40% of participants in Italy, 37% in Spain, 32% in France, 30% in Germany, 29% in Sweden and 25% in the United Kingdom.

Essity believes the solution lies in tackling these taboos head-on and has taken an approach “bringing down these barriers to well-being with courage and innovation”.Hansen explained: “Every day, millions of women, men and children refrain from going to work or school or participating in social events for reasons of hygiene and health.”

“We know that hygiene and health are the very essence of the well-being of every person on the planet, at every stage of life. It’s a simple fact, but full of complex challenges, ranging from taboos and stigmas to a global need for sustainable development.

Cross-collaboration throughout personal care

Continuing to generate holistic alliances and collaborations is at the forefront of eradicating taboos around menstrual health and hygiene, to ensure people have access to effective MHM.

“Partnerships are essential to creating progress in sustainable development and to educating, influencing and captivating people on the subject of improved hygiene and to raise awareness on a global scale”, Hansen pointed out. The wider personal care industry can support hygiene and health issues such as these, she said, by spreading the word and identifying ways to work together to move forward. before.

Understanding the period of poverty

Essity’s Essentials Initiative Survey 2021-2022 found that millions of work days and school days are lost each year because people avoid going due to the social stigmas they face and a lack of access to basic facilities, including hygiene products. In France alone, this represents 1.7 million days, according to the survey.

The survey, which was carried out in partnership with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), showed that 47% of 15,000 respondents in 15 countries, including France, Italy and Sweden, believe that menstruation products should be free for students and vulnerable people. groups, with 43% believing taxes on menstrual products should be removed.

The right to hygiene

Essity and UNICEF Hygiene is our rightThe initiative aims to educate people around the world on the importance of good hand hygiene, remove taboos around menstruation, and reinforce standards and guidelines that promote good hygiene and good health.

Encouraging conversations about menstruation has been a key pillar of the duo’s efforts. The partnership saw the organizations design the first app to track menstruation and provide menstrual hygiene education, as well as launch various digital campaigns and activations, including “Pass the towel”.According to UNICEF, these actions have benefited nearly 200,000 children and adolescents, as well as more than 3,000 teachers.

Menstrual health and hygiene are essential but lacking

Despite progress in health care, the rate of improvement in menstrual health has slowed, according to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s 2020 progress report. This, combined with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has presented an undeniable challenge and heightened global health and hygiene concerns.

Worldwide, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services, according to UNICEF. In the least developed countries, just over a quarter (27%) of the population has access to a handwashing facility at home with soap and water. Therefore, managing menstruation at home is a huge challenge for people who lack essential health and hygiene resources in their homes.

“Health and hygiene are fundamental to guaranteeing the right to education, but if children and adolescents do not have access to drinking water services, lack facilities to wash their hands properly and do not have access to supplies such as soap, pads and menstrual hygiene supplies, their right to health and education is diminished,” ​Irma Fabiola Acosta Manning, head of corporate fundraising at UNICEF, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

Increasing hygiene awareness and education

Through insight-driven campaigns, the brands hope to spark global dialogue and raise awareness about commonly unspoken issues about menstruation, as well as personal hygiene. “We believe that as long as daily hygiene and health conditions can be improved, there is an opportunity to improve well-being”, said Hansen.

In addition to highlighting taboos and stigmas and promoting dialogue, brands like Essity strive to create solutions through innovation and new technologies that improve healthcare and hygiene. Tackling barriers to wellbeing through a holistic approach is also key to driving societal progress, and showcasing it through engaging stories through campaigns and other events can also help.

“We are working with the private sector to break down barriers and achieve social change, but there is still a long way to go,”Manning said.

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