2 How to promote positive menstrual health in schools
Schools have an important role to play in promoting a positive culture around menstrual health, facilitating safe use of sanitary items by students and supporting the initiative among the school community. There are several strategies and actions that schools can undertake to do this:
Strategy 1: Implement the Personal Hygiene policy in your school community
Action: Schools are required to follow the Department’s to protect the health of the school community and help students manage their own menstrual hygiene routines
Strategy 2: Schools must provide information to students on the safe use of sanitary items
Action: Provide accurate and age appropriate education on the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative
A Teacher’s Guide along with 3 student facing PowerPoint presentations have been designed for teachers to have a conversation with students regarding the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative:
The teacher conversation guides contain age appropriate information on:
- periods as a normal, healthy part of growing up
- where sanitary dispensers are located at their school and their contents
- explaining about pads and tampons
- good personal and menstrual hygiene practices, including disposal of products
- being responsible and respectful in the bathroom
- opportunity for students to ask questions.
Teachers may adapt the content as appropriate to meet the needs of their students.
Action: Provide students with information about menstrual hygiene management
Schools must ensure that students accessing tampons at school understand the importance of good menstrual hygiene to reduce associated health risks. Schools must:
- provide universal access to sanitary items when and where they are needed, soap and water to wash their hands, privacy to change products when required and provide facilities to dispose of used sanitary products
- provide accurate and age appropriate education on menstrual hygiene, including how poor menstrual hygiene can lead to toxic shock syndrome and various reproductive tract infections.
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare illness that is thought to be caused by infection with certain types of bacteria. In some circumstances the bacteria can overgrow, producing large amounts of the TSS toxin that sets off a severe inflammatory response which can be potentially life threatening. Using tampons has been associated with an increased risk of TSS. Sanitary products sold in Australia are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure they are produced with raw materials that minimise health risks. Tampon-related TSS has significantly declined as a result of changes in the manufacture of tampons, regulation and greater awareness of safe tampon use.
With tampons being made available in schools, schools must ensure that students understand the importance of good menstrual hygiene to reduce the risk of getting TSS.
The information that menstruating students need to know when using a tampon includes:
- always ensure good handwashing before and after using tampons
- only unwrap the tampon immediately before use and dispose of the tampon if the wrapper is damaged
- tampons should be changed at least every 4 hours and sanitary pads used overnight rather than tampons.
Strategy 3: Include menstrual health education at appropriate points in the Health and Physical Education Curriculum
Action: Provide accurate and age appropriate education on menstrual health management through the curriculum
Menstrual health can be included as part of the current Health and Physical Education curriculum to ensure that all students are provided with opportunities to learn about menstrual hygiene management. Information provided to students should include when and how to seek medical advice and more general support.
Strategy 4: Promote a supportive school environment and engage with student voice
Action: Encourage students to engage in discussion and be a part of your school’s approach to help normalise periods and remove the stigma associated with menstruation
Schools can facilitate positive menstrual health through normalising menstruation and promoting periods as part of healthy adolescent development. Schools may choose to involve their Student Representative Council in raising awareness of the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative.
Action: Adopt a whole-school-approach to normalising periods to remove the stigma associated with menstruation
Myths related to sanitary items and menstruation can contribute to gender-based discrimination and can also reduce women’s access to education, jobs, and overall equality.
Strategy 5: Provide parents/carers with information
Action: Provide information to the broader school community about menstrual health and the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative
Reviewed 02 June 2021