World Hygiene Day 2023 commemorated at USP by students


The 2023 World Menstrual Hygiene Day was commemorated with a debate organised by the Rotary Pacific Water for Life Foundation last Thursday (June 1, 2023) hosted by The University of the South Pacific at its Laucala Campus.

The debate aimed to shed more light on the social issues surrounding menstruation and create a culture of awareness that would allow society to eliminate the stigma young girls and women face.

Officiating as Chief Guest at the event, Sarah Nisbet, the New Zealand High Commission’s First Secretary, stated that “menstrual cycle is a normal fact of life. We must all work towards normalising this fact of life and normalising the conversation.”

“I think that is one of the challenges for us here today and to figure out how do we do this and how do we start this conversation in the Pacific and any part of the world in a way that is culturally appropriate but continues to push those boundaries because it is such an important conversation that we need to be having.”

“The issue of women and girls being able to manage their menstruation with dignity is a human rights issue. Part of restoring that dignity is breaking the stigma around menstruation by ending the cycle through education, advocacy and awareness campaigns.”

As part of the programme, two teams from USP and two other teams from The University of Fiji battled it out in a debate competition, with the host institution winning both rounds.

USP won the first round after taking the opposing side of the topic “Can Culture be a Barrier to Girls’ Lack of Knowledge on Menstrual Hygiene Management”, scoring 132 points against Uni Fiji, who was only two points behind.

The second round of debate based on “Should there be a Policy in the Pacific Islands where Women and Girls are Allowed to take Leave Because of Menstruation”, was also won by team USP with an overall point of 131.

Speaking to the debate participants, Ms Nisbet stressed that such an initiative “will bring out new things and messages that will foster solidarity and conviction amongst different societies not only here in Fiji but also across the Pacific because we need to embrace this as a normal fact of life.”

“All the young people in this room, you are the future; through you, we must have this conversation, and I am sure you have some great ideas.”

USP Student Association (USPSA) Education Chair at the Laucala Campus, Teliigafou Palaku Sakaio, in her address during the commemoration at the Japan ICT Centre, said, “This is an opportunity to be able to educate, advocate and support the millions of women and girls around the world that are being discriminated, stigmatised and deprived of their sense of womanhood.”

“Our gratitude to the debate participants for accepting the invitation to be part of today’s programme even though the examination programme is right around the corner. May this experience allow us to understand the importance of menstrual cycle to accept its natural function and to be solid support for our sisters in need.”

This year’s World Menstruation Hygiene Day fell on May 28 with the theme ‘Making Menstruation a Normal Fact of Life by 2030’.

The Rotary Pacific Water for Life Foundation, as the organiser of the event, also reiterated its commitment to provide access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation through capacity building and community development.

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