2015 saw the launch of the GIZ staff initiative MenstruAction. Staff from different sectors including education, health, gender and WASH got together to spread a positive message about menstruation health and hygiene. The influencer campaigns are only one aspect of this. Special events, campaigns and cooperation within and outside GIZ all aim to mainstream the issue in the company and in the public perception.
Menstruation: let’s talk!
Menstruation is still a taboo subject. GIZ is working with local influencers to change this. Girls and women around the world should be able to experience menstruation in a healthy way.
When Keki Adhikari enters the room on a cloudy day in Frankfurt, she is a ray of sunshine. With her colourful outfit and infectious smile, the actor immediately puts others in a good mood. The Nepalese star is touring Europe for her TV dance show. But now the focus is on a project that is close to her heart – normalising conversations about menstruation.
Adhikari has been working with GIZ Nepal since 2020. In 2021, when COVID restrictions were relaxed, she travelled for a week through rural parts of Nepal with a film team. The result was a short film entitled Tackling Taboos and other social media content. The documentary of her road trip was a surprise hit, with over one million views (200,000 watched Tackling Taboos on Facebook alone). The film struck a nerve, especially with a younger audience desperate for some positive news following the pandemic.
Keki Adhikari: actor, producer, activist
And that is something Keki Adhikari is very good at. She takes away the embarrassment others feel when talking about menstruation. In the film she visits schools, speaks to teachers and school students, and finds out how biodegradable sanitary towels are manufactured. The short film continues to be a success today. Recently it was nominated for an award at the WHO’s Health for All Film Festival.
Keki Adhikari is an idol who people can relate to and believe, with a positive, important message. She has often traveled to rural regions for long periods of time to film. In some remote areas, girls and women are considered unclean and untouchable during their period. Sometimes they are not even allowed to sleep in their homes. But more often girls don’t go to school because there are not enough menstruation products and menstruation-friendly toilets. This is not only a major obstacle to their education, but also to gender equality.
In 2018, GIZ staff in Nepal had the idea of working with local influencers to bring the topic of menstruation out into the open. Unlike international stars, local influencers have a direct link to their audience. They know how to reach their communities and get them on board.
A particular advantage of regional artists is their cultural sensitivity. When it comes to issues like menstrual health and hygiene, it is essential to strike the right tone, to address young target groups in a relaxed and open way through social media, without shocking older or more traditional groups.
In addition to Nepal, Albania and the Philippines now have influencers who are advancing the topic of menstruation in the media. For example, Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015, stars in a video for the Department of Education’s TV channel – a joint campaign between GIZ, UNICEF and Save the Children Philippines – to educate young girls and boys. She is also supporting the Fit for School campaign – almost 500,000 people have already seen her video message on Instagram.
In Albania, well-known TV presenter Fatma Haxhialiu is fronting a similar campaign. In the first few months following its launch, 1.5 million people watched the videos on social media. Fatma Haxhialiu also talked about #LetsTalkPERIOD on several major TV and radio shows – an impressive achievement in a country with a total population of almost three million.
Male role models
An important next step is to get more men involved. As role models for boys and men, the idea is that they make it easier to talk openly and tackle prejudices. Inspired by #NepalsMenstrualMovement, successful singer Prakash Saput joined forces with Keki Adhikari and posted a music video on his YouTube channel. In the video, he powerfully describes the stigmatisation that girls face during menstruation. Since it was uploaded in December 2022, 2.8 million people have watched the video.
In the Philippines, a cooperation with influencer couple Kathleen Paton (Miss Eco International 2022) and Kirk Bondad (Mister World Philippines 2022) launched in 2023. And what about Keki Adhikari? She continues to use her voice and platform to support girls and women, most recently in a short film with fellow actor Dayahang Rai on the Menstruation Bracelet.
Over the last few years, the local social media campaign #NepalsMenstrualMovement has thus grown into the global gender-transformative approach #LetsTalkPERIOD, stretching from Nepal via Albania to the Philippines. It has already reached over five million people. This is a huge step towards normalising such an important issue. Due to this success, #LetsTalkPERIOD will be extended to more African countries in which GIZ works.
Influencer Kathleen Paton talking to female pupils about menstrual health and hygiene.
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