Menstruating shouldn’t be taboo. Right now, more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating.
But, there are around 500 million women in the world today who lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. Often, this is due to economic deprivation, gender inequality and discrimination, and as a result, thousands of women and girls are missing school and work every day, impacting not only their lives and their families, but their societies.
This year, Master in Management (MIM) students at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, made it their mission to raise awareness about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 6 – clean water and sanitation for all – focusing on the challenges women are facing around the world regarding menstrual hygiene, or “period poverty”.
This Splash Projects Leadership Challenge tasked seven student leadership ambassadors to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene and sustainable sanitary products among their peers. This was the second MIM Challenge in a 10-year Decade of Action facilitated by Splash Projects, and was led by Splash Projects Business and Training Development Coordinator Balvinder Singh Powar, who is also an adjunct professor and business mentor at IE, as well as Splash Projects Managing Director Simon Poole and Splash Projects Operations Director Phil Weeks.
“There are people around the world who cannot afford sanitary pads, and if women have a health issue, it affects all of society,” said Balvinder. “We wanted to pick a difficult but necessary topic, because raising awareness about an issue can have an impact on thousands of lives.”
MIM Challenge ambassador Hasmitha Rangaswami, said: “Before you can advise about sustainability and hygiene, you need to create a safe space for women around you to talk about it and then you can go beyond campus and talk to women in developing countries about sanitary options. But, for that to happen, we have to kill the taboo.”
Over many months in the run-up to Charity Day on Friday 17 June, students engaged in various activities, including taking part in a panel discussion with Splash Projects Advisory Board Member, Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organization, a global non-profit committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. The views of students regarding women’s hygiene and sanitation were also garnered via a collection of whiteboards situated around the campus.
On the Charity Day, facilitated by Splash Projects, students got stuck into the task of stitching re-useable cloth sanitary pads, considered a sustainable solution for feminine hygiene. The workshop was organised by MIM Challenge ambassador Melanie Chinchayan Diaz, supported by women-led menstrual hygiene social enterprise Eco Femme, based in Tamil Nadu, South India.
Students also engaged with various presentations about the topic, raising 1,000 Euros for the World Toilet Organization in the process.
The challenge provides an impactful learning opportunity for the students. MIM Challenge ambassador Radhika Bhatia, said: “IE Charity Day was by far one of the most interesting and challenging projects I have taken up in my academic journey.
“When I started working on the project my aim was to contribute to a meaningful cause, but little did I know that it would turn out to be the best leadership experience of my life!
“This project humbled me and made me realise that I have so much more to do and so much more to learn – and unlearn.”
She added: “As a society we have come a long way when we converse and take actions related to menstruation. Yet the menstrual hygiene and sustainability aspect of using the menstrual product is an issue that impacts not only developing countries but also developed societies.”
MIM Challenge ambassador Melanie Chinchayan Diaz, said: “This experience will stay with me forever because it taught me a lot about how to work as a team with different nationalities, to adapt to different ways of working, and to manage conflicts and different points of view in order to finally make a decision.”
MIM Challenge ambassador Soniya Shet, added: “The last six months have been truly challenging, both professionally and personally, but this has transformed me into a better person and a better leader.”
Now, the essence of the challenge is going on an incredible 27,000km odyssey around the world.
The Wood World Tour will see IE graduate and Splash Projects MIM Challenge ambassador Giorgio Fouarge, embark on a circumnavigation of the globe on a wooden bike. One of the Splash Projects team will cycle from Splash Projects HQ in Exmouth, Devon, UK to Brussels, Belgium, where Giorgio will officially start the feat.
As well as raising awareness about sustainable travel and raising funds for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque Enfants du Monde, which enables children with heart abnormalities from underprivileged countries to undergo surgery in France, the Wood World Tour will continue the work by IE MIM Challenge students and raise awareness about the UN’s SDG6 and the inequality around the world regarding women’s menstrual sanitation.