Menstrual management in communal sanitation facilities: recommendations to eThekwini municipality

A growing body of research has shown that menstrual hygiene products (MHPs) are critical to gender equity, and South Africa has committed to providing free sanitary napkins to all indigent women. To address interim water and sanitation needs of its citizens living in informal settlements, South Africa’s eThekwini Water and Sanitation Unit (EWS) constructed community ablution blocks (CABs) that consist of gender-separated toilets, showers, and washbasins. The interactions between women, unfamiliar sanitation systems, and MHPs are likely to impact women and the sanitation systems they utilize. A larger case study led by PATH is evaluating these interactions, within which this sub-study aims to characterize the relationship between CABs and menstrual hygiene management in Durban’s informal settlements. Based on analysis of information gathered through interviews, photo documentation, and observations, we provide recommendations to EWS that we believe will improve women’s experiences at CABs and reduce negative impacts on the sanitation systems.