Bringing Menstrual Health and Hygiene to the Global Health Agenda

Ensuring good and safe menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) contributes to the overall health and well-being of menstruators around the world, and yet roughly 500 million people face limitations when it comes to managing their menstruation. These challenges are even more urgent for those who menstruate in low-  and middle-income countries. From poverty reduction and stronger economies to healthier populations and better educational outcomes, the benefits of investing in MHH) are far-reaching.

The Global Menstrual Health Advocacy Project was designed to marshal our joint efforts to bring MHH into the global health agenda and effectively address the menstrual health needs of people who menstruate through a strategy combining cross-sectoral programming, research, and advocacy.


ODETTE HEKSTERManaging Director
PSI Europe


Odette Hekster joined PSI-Europe in 2012 and served in different roles before becoming Managing Director in July 2020.

With a Masters in Science of Public Administration (Netherlands), Odette has over eight years of leadership and management experience and over 20 years of experience in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including working in East Africa with UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme to address urban sexual violence against women, in the English- & Dutch- speaking Caribbean with UNFPA, as well as working for the Dutch NGOs Aidsfonds and Rutgers.


Maria Carmen is a Menstrual Health researcher and activist. After working in several international non-profit organizations focused on gender equity and reproductive health, she won a five-year grant to complete her PhD on menstrual health and social enterprises at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. 

Her research starts from the recognition that while menstrual health has been proven to affect women’s opportunities, health and inclusive participation in society, it is widely missing from existing work for gender equity. 

On the side of her research, Maria Carmen is the Innovation Advisor at Madami and is regularly consulted across the Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) space for her expertise in MHH related business innovation. When she is not busy writing and teaching, she curates her @periodswithmariacarmen Instagram page, where she translates evidence on the menstrual cycle into fun, shareable content.

MARIA CARMEN PUNZIMenstrual Health Researcher and Activist

SANDY GARÇONSenior Advocacy Manager

Sandy Garçon manages a portfolio of advocacy initiatives primarily focused on menstrual health and self-care interventions for health. At PSI, Sandy led the creation of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group (SCTG), a global coalition dedicated to expanding the safe and effective practice of self-care, and serves as Secretariat Director. He also oversees strategic communications and outreach for HIV/TB programs. 

Sandy has over a decade of advocacy and communications experience, having served as communications and knowledge management lead for the USAID-funded health system strengthening project Services de Santé de Qualité pour Haïti-Nord in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. He previously worked at the advertising agency TBWA\Corporate in Paris and at the global tobacco control network Framework Convention Alliance in Washington, DC. 

Sandy holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida, a Master in International Public Management from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po Paris), and a Master in Communications from the Université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne.

Cristina Ljungberg is a Co-founder of The Case for Her, a philanthropic investment portfolio addressing the key women’s health issues of menstruation and sexual health. Cristina has a Master’s in Biotechnology from Northwestern and an MBA from Dartmouth College. This combined expertise in business and healthcare has propelled her nearly two-decade journey in philanthropy. 

Before The Case for Her, Cristina spent five years on the Board of Directors for Global Grassroots and established the nonprofit foundation Giving Wings in 2010. In 2016, Cristina became a founding member of the Maverick Collective.

In addition to her work with women’s health, Cristina is also a Partner at Influence Film—a foundation, investment firm, and online platform that supports documentary film production. She is also an active board member for the non-profit venture capital firm Acumen and AFRIpads, a manufacturer of reusable, washable sanitary pads.


daniela’S STORY


By Andrea Novella, Regional Manager, Social Media, PSI LAC, and Lorena Villeda, Regional Social Media Specialist, PSI LAC 

Daniela didn’t understand what was happening to her body the first time she menstruated. Nobody had fully explained what would happen. She had only heard that her period was “dirty,” that on ¨those days, women act crazy¨ and that it was “like being sick.”

She remembered what her mother had once told her— that with the onset of menstruation she must be careful as “boys could be dangerous”–but Daniela never really understood how her periods related to boys. She was curious but struggled to find a trustworthy source of information about her menstrual health and hygiene without being shamed or judged.

Daniela is not alone. Girls across Latin America face similar challenges. The stigma and lack of information around menstrual health prevents them from having a holistic understanding of their sexual and reproductive health and taking charge of their health, their bodies, and their lives.


member JOURNAL

A memorable moment…

One of the most memorable moments on my first project visit to Nepal was participating in a three-day women’s festival called Teejj.  The festival is observed for the health of husbands and children and the act of purification of one’s self.  The celebration includes feasting, fasting, gifts, and offerings.  The festival of Rishi Panchami, which takes place on the 3rd day of Teej is focused on the purity of women and the need to cleanse oneself of the sin of possibly having touched a man during menstruation during the previous year.  Photo #43 was taken at Pashupatinath, the most sacred Hindu temple in Kathmandu during the festival where a mother and adult daughter shared the festival with us and insisted that we dance and celebrate with them.

My favorite meal…

Open momos, a small dumpling filled with meat or veggies, dipped in a sauce.  The spicy ones made me cry.  The Swedish team ate these often.   Although,  the best food experience was the street food breakfast tour arranged by Backstreet Academy.  We walked the streets of Kathmandu for a few hours on an early weekday morning, tasting and trying out the dishes that many Nepalese enjoy for a typical breakfast: dal, crispy gwaramari and sel roti, and hot glasses of milky chiya.

An unforgettable experience…

I love documentaries!  As it turns out, Kathmandu hosts the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF).  The team that runs it is incredible, showing a combination of local and international films. During my Maverick project, I was able to support and attend the festival for two years.  I ended up funding a film called “Drawing the Tiger”, about girls’ education in Nepal, and bringing a director, Mike Day,  to Kathmandu to teach a master class in cinematography.  I truly miss the team at KIMFF.

Play Video

An unfamiliar story from Nepal…

I really enjoyed watching “The Last Honey Hunter”, a short documentary film set in the steep mountain jungles where honey hunters risk their lives to harvest wild, pink, toxic, hallucinogenic honey. This film tells the story of the final journey of the last honey hunter as the community waits to see if anyone will have the magical dream to be called as the next honey hunter. 

Read about it here

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