Imagine if for five days every month, you were forbidden from interacting with boys or men.

Or from cooking or touching cooking utensils for fear you might contaminate the food. What if, despite living in a humid tropical country, you weren't allowed to bathe in cold water, or even wash your hair? Imagine if, on top of all this, you were expected to manage your heightened need for hygiene and privacy when you have limited resources or no access to water, clean toilets, soap, or sanitary materials.

This is the reality faced by most women and girls in many Pacific island countries for 3,000 days in their lifetime, simply because they are female and undergoing the normal biological process of menstruation.

May 28 is the Menstrual Hygiene Day, a good time to ask ourselves why, despite global efforts to empower women and girls, progress on supporting menstrual hygiene management-directly linked to women and girls' rights to equality, health, and dignity-is still so slow.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 1 2021, of The Himalayan Times.