Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice:

Human Rights across the Lifespan

Save the date — June 4-6, 2015

The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, Suffolk University, Boston, USA

Save the date for a multidisciplinary and global conference to strengthen our research, activism, clinical service, artistic expression, and policy. We are working to achieve empowerment and social justice for women and girls everywhere by heightening menstrual health awareness, education, and services.

Menstrual health is central to women’s ability to lead lives of dignity and well being in every society and every part of the world. Without menstrual health other core rights remain in jeopardy. In fact, the UNDP and UNICEF have highlighted menstruation as “the single most important factor affecting school drop-out among girls” (2007), impeding the educational attainment that would facilitate social empowerment and financial independence around the globe. Yet, menstrual health is rarely respected, protected, or fulfilled as a human right, and has not been recognized or theorized as a reproductive justice issue.

“Stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to human dignity, but also of the right to non-discrimination, equality, bodily integrity, health, privacy, and the right to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment from abuse and violence.”

Dr. Jyoti Sanghera, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Menstrual health and education are the foundations for more widely acknowledged reproductive rights, including as having agency over our own bodies, the ability to plan the number and spacing of our children, the right to sex education, sexual autonomy, and pleasure.

Viewing the menstrual cycle through human rights and reproductive justice frames allows us to see more clearly the social and institutional structures and discrimination on the basis of race/ethnicity, class, and gender identity. Including menstrual health in visions of social justice also leads to more effective strategies for women’s well being and empowerment across the lifespan.

Watch This Space for the Call for Abstracts in August 2014!

Proposals addressing all aspects of the menstrual cycle (physiological, sociocultural, psychological, or cross-cultural)  from menarche to menopause are encouraged, including those that involve research, theory, public policy, health care, and clinical applications, art, and activism. The possibilities are endless. Suggested topics intersect menstrual health and politics at any stage of the lifespan.

Conference Highlights

  • Kick-off flash plenary showcasing several short talks that make the menstrual connection
  • Making Menstruation Matter award presentation to our 2015 award winner, Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS) and remarks by OBOS director Judy Norsigian
  • Plenary on Menstrual Hygiene Management campaigns around the globe
  • Featured presentation by psychologist and menstrual advocate, Tomi-Ann Roberts, “Mainstreaming the Flow: (Still) Selling My Soul to Start the Conversation”
  • Film screenings, including Menstrual Man, with Q & A with director Amit Virmani
  • Menstrual art exhibit and artists’ panel and luncheon
  • SMCR’s second Menstrual Poetry Slam and raffle

Keynote Speaker: Loretta Ross

Loretta Ross [used with permission]

Loretta Ross is a nationally recognized trainer on using the transformative power of reproductive justice to build a human rights movement that includes everyone.

Papers, poster sessions, workshops, exhibits, panels, and creative sessions are all welcome. We also seek spoken word artists and poets to participate in our second Menstrual Poetry Slam.

Boston 2015 Conference Chairs:

  • Chris Bobel, U Massachusetts, Boston, and SMCR President-elect (chris.bobel@umb.edu)
  • Amy Agigian, Suffolk University, Director of the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights (aagigian@suffolk.edu)

Boston 2015 Program Committee:

  • Co-chair, Jane Ussher, University of Western Sydney
  • Co-chair, Janette Perz, University of Western Sydney
  • Co-chair, Heather Dillaway, Wayne State University
  • Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, Castleton College, and SMCR President
  • Megan White Mukuria, ZanaAfrica
  • Annie Smith, ZanaAfrica
  • Marlene Gerber Fried, Hampshire College, Director of Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program
  • Toni Leonard, Past Executive Director of Black Women for Reproductive Justice

  Because Menstrual Health Is a Human Right