When it comes to menstrual health, we now have the leveraging tool called the Pacific Menstrual Health Network - that gives us hope for change.
The Pacific Menstrual Health Network (the Network) was developed as a part of the ‘Galvanising Pacific-led menstrual health collective action’ project to contribute to ‘Strengthening Pacific-led menstrual health collective action’. The multi-sectoral network sought to strengthen collective advocacy, action and shared learning across Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Through building a greater collective understanding of the menstrual health ecosystem and key opportunities, the Network comprises members who are committed to improving menstrual health outcomes across the Pacific.
Phase 1 of the project (2019 – 2022) focused on establishing and building relationships, setting up governance structures and building a good understanding of the menstrual health ecosystem in the five countries across the Pacific.
In April 2022, WaterAid Australia, which manages the wider project and the Network, commissioned an independent evaluation to consider its effectiveness and value of the Network. The evaluation process included document and data analysis as well as interviews with Network members and WaterAid staff.
In terms of effectiveness (of the Network as a modality), the evaluation found that the Network was effective in contributing to collective action, advocacy and shared learning. Members identified the power of association (with the Network), new partnerships and tangible outcomes as highly valued benefits from participating in the Network. Members acknowledged the complexities of working collectively in different cultural contexts and praised their colleagues’ goodwill and the supportive environment as enabling factors for making the newly formed Network succeed. There was a strong consensus among all members that the Network should continue to be Pacific-led. There was also evidence of ongoing commitment to the Network as a vehicle for change and improvement of menstrual health in the Pacific.
A series of recommendations were developed based on the evaluation findings, relevant to the planning and design of Phase 2. The following recommendations aim to strengthen and build on what is already an effective approach to progressing menstrual health in the Pacific:
- The Network should continue to be Pacific-led (partially or fully) to support the amplification of the Pacific voice and ownership of the Network and its vision, while recognising each member’s and country’s unique strengths and cultural values. Whether the Network can be partially or fully Pacific-led needs to be considered, based on members’ experience, analysis of available resources and efforts required.
- Now the Network is well-founded, there is potential benefit in increasing awareness about its vision and function among national governments, Pacific CROP agencies, international agencies (NGOs, UN agencies and others) and donor organisations. A multi-faced approach may be useful, depending on shared priorities, available resources and existing networks. Dialogue may be in the form of individual meetings with organisations or through participation and engagement at conferences, with the purpose of encouraging interest, attracting resources and contributing to systemic change. Accessing funding from a range of sources could contribute to ongoing Network sustainability in future. Increased credibility of the Network can help national fundraising and thus also improve sustainability.
- Members should continue to build and enhance national networks, including through support and resources provided by the Network. This could in turn, strengthen the credibility of the Network, contributing to a cycle of mutual benefit.
- Members should maximize and build on the short-, medium- and long-term successes of the menstrual health movement in the Pacific. This includes the Network’s success in organising events as part of the International Women’s Day and World Menstruation Day, developing case studies and pilot projects to promote awareness and benefits of the Network.
- The Network’s ability to successfully navigate diverse frames of reference and encompass a range of stakeholders will contribute to its effectiveness, so members would benefit from ongoing dialogue, reflection and negotiation of shared values to determine shared priorities and celebrate members’ contributions.
- WaterAid should support the Network for the next three years through:
a. Grant management and funding to support Phase 2
b. Program management, through Pacific Coordinators
c. Human resource management related to Pacific Coordinators
d. Facilitation of the planning phase (see Recommendation 7 and 8)
- When organising the joint planning process for the next stage of the Network’s work, members may consider exploring the following topics:
a. How systemic change (and other forms of change) happens in the Pacific, rights-based approaches to change, gender justice, transformational vs transactional types of change and context-specific influences on menstrual health
b. Understanding capability strengths in order to prioritise future efforts and commitments in Phase 2
c. Strengths and limitations of different contributions and modalities for bringing about change in Pacific contexts, including multi-country and regional options
- WaterAid should support Network members to consider options related to a more sustainable model in future, as part of as well as in addition to the planning process for Phase 2. This may include engagement of a facilitator, if agreed, to support discussions and analysis of the following topics, so WaterAid can play a role as participant:
a. Development of a roadmap to support strategic thinking, communications, broad timeframes and resources required
b. Negotiated agreement of shared principles and values
c. Shared vision and objectives for the Network
d. Strengths and limitations of effective modalities and decisions about preferred option