From Stigma to Dignity: Breaking Taboos through Innovative Partnerships

Date: 4th July 2015

Last week, WSSCC and SCA, a global hygiene and forest products company concluded the first chapter of an innovative new partnership to break the silence around menstruation for women and girls around the world.

In tandem with SCA’s sponsorship of Team SCA, the all-female racing team that competed in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race, the two organizations held joint informational seminars and menstrual hygiene trainings with local girls and women during stop-overs in South Africa, China, USA, Portugal, the Netherlands, and finally, Sweden. Bringing together WSSCC’s technical expertise on sanitation and hygiene in developing countries with SCA’s global brands and commitment to sustainability, education and innovation, the partnership has brought further awareness of the issue via the media and local advocates.

“Safe and hygienic menstruation is a basic human right and fundamental to women’s equality,” said Archana Patkar of WSSCC. “Securing this right requires a multi-faceted approach with a diverse coalition of partners. WSSCC is proud to work with SCA on breaking the silence around menstruation.”

Credit: WSSCC

Credit: WSSCC

At various stopovers, WSSCC and SCA were joined by partners including the Hainan government in China, the Volunteer Centre in South Africa, the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) in New York, the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) in the Netherlands and both WaterAid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in Sweden. All partnering organizations expressed their desire to empower women and girls by improving sanitation and hygiene, and breaking down the stigma surrounding menstruation.

During the first phase of this partnership, the joint goal of the two organizations was to break the menstrual taboos that jeopardize the health of millions of women every day, and to raise the awareness of menstrual hygiene and empower women and communities to take action, as menstruation should not hold women back to participate fully in society socially, educationally and professionally.

“SCA is committed to making a difference and delivering value to people and society, at the same time as we provide hygiene solutions and do business,” said Kersti Strandqvist, SVP Group Sustainability at SCA. “This partnership is just the first step in a long journey towards contributing value from all sectors.

At every event, one message rang clear: It is no longer a conversation about awareness-raising, or advocacy. Access to proper sanitation and hygiene affect overall economic development as well as health, gender equality, human rights, education, environment and employment. If the world is going to achieve the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, various stakeholders need to work together across the borders towards this common objective.

WSSCC and SCA announced the partnership in Cape Town, South Africa, in connection with Team SCA’s first stop-over in the Volvo Ocean Race round the world competition. At each stop during the nine months of stiff competition, the two organizations celebrated the success of Team SCA, as they clocked up four podium positions during the InPort racing (two InPort wins, one third place and one second), as well as a victory on Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, France.

The partnership between WSSCC and SCA will continue, even as the excitement of the Volvo Ocean Race fades away. The two organizations will continue to work together on breaking the silence on menstruation, and will also define innovative ways to work together on educating women and girls, and devising safe methods for disposal.

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