Breaking Taboos


“We have broken a taboo and quite powerfully too,“ declared Senegal’s UN Ambassador, Fode Seck, wrapping up an event where women (and men) from around the world eagerly packed into a UN conference room – sitting even on the windowsills and floor – to discuss the impact on women and girls of inadequate menstrual hygiene, open defecation and other practices that are usually unmentionable in polite company.



Titled “Unlocking multiple benefits for women and girls through sanitation and hygiene in the post-2015 era”, the event took place on 13 March during the two-week session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Permanent Missions of Senegal and Singapore co-hosted, with the support of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and UN Women.

Singapore Ambassador Karen Tan kicked off the discussion by summing up the dire situation: 2 billion people globally lack adequate sanitation, and one billion practice open defecation, with particular challenges for women and girls, including greater risk of violence and sexual assault. There is much work to be done, she noted, in providing WASH facilities to women and girls, who “should not be ashamed of these very natural needs they have.” Continue reading