Co-created citizen science to advance sustainable menstrual health among adolescents


Stigma and taboo negatively impact the health and wellbeing of people who menstruate across the globe. We will develop the infrastructure for a citizen science project to strengthen community engagement and identify ways to support the alignment of good menstrual health with human rights and environmental sustainability. With community participation, this project will identify stakeholders, initiate dialogue, develop objectives and a strategic plan for community participatory research that will be implementable in Sudan, Uganda and in the UK.

  • Sustainable Development Goals

    This project examined the following SDGs:

    SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing 
    SDG 4 –  Qaulity Education
    SDG 5 - Gender Equality
    SDG 6 –  Clean Water and Sanitation
    SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production 
    SDG 14 – Life Below Water
    SDG 15 – Life on Land
    SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

    Find out more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Project description

The under-prioritisation of menstrual health sustains gender inequity in health, education, work and wellbeing (SDG 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10), and the primary solutions involve single-use plastic-containing products that pollute land and water (SDG 12, 14, 15). What constitutes good, sustainable menstrual healthis poorly and variably defined by stakeholders, which hinders its optimisation.

Public-facing participatory research can raise awareness, normalise, and reduce stigmaHere, the project team develops citizen science research capacity to build relevance, translatability and impact. This stream of work builds on the SSRP-funded project 'Luna Connection', which established an interdisciplinary international research network in menstrual health in 2021 with partners from Uganda, Sudan, Kenya and UK. Informed by research priorities identified and developed through Luna Connection, and strengthening a nascent partnership with the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), this project will generate capacity to bring in the voices of adolescents, community stakeholders, parents of adolescents, men and boys and menstruators who do not identify as women into dialogues on menstrual health, with the aim to strengthen community and support for adolescents who menstruate. The research team will develop a clear impact and delivery strategy to underpin a regional (Sussex/South Coast) citizen science project and develop capacity for implementation in Uganda and Sudan.

The project aims to explore the application of citizen science in order to:

  • identify and highlight regional menstrual health and wellbeing priorities;
  • improve awareness and understanding of the environmental impacts of menstrual products.

Timeline and funding


February 2023-July 2023


SSRP funding (£15,989)

Expected outcomes and impacts

Education and awareness interventions are typically directed at menstruators and educators, but not at the community in which they live. Through inclusively-designed community engagement, the project aims to radically break down the barriers to good menstrual health that have been maintained by taboo and shame. Men, boys and non-binary menstruators will be included, identifying menstrual health as a whole-community issue, rather than a sectoral one, using audio-visual outputs, reporting in regionally-relevant media and design of public-facing events. The goal is also to develop a “think tank” of adolescents to co-create research activities and outputs whilst working with partners who are well-connected and networked within our population.

Moreover, school (and workplace) absence due to menstruation is currently unmeasured. The economic consequences of this  absence are not yet quantified and need to be. This is partly attributable to the relative invisibility of menstruation in  the educational journey of adolescents. This research aims to raise visibility, and highlight where policy and  educational structures need to be implemented. Poverty, worsened by the increased cost of living, is a barrier to good  menstrual health. Raising wareness of 1) the impact of menstruation on attendance and participation in  education and the workplace and 2) the economic challenges faced by menstruators to support solution-finding, is therefore key.

Through engagement with the regional public, and through work with an impact consultant, the team will develop a citizen science project that will have tangible impact in its delivery and also in its development. Holding meetings (with embedded impact activities) will help to develop partnerships and open dialogues with community members and stakeholders.

Proposed timeline:

  • February 2023: Collaboration and skills-building for citizen science capacity
  • March 2023: Round table meeting: goal-setting and action plans
  • April 2023: Impact strategy development
  • May-July 2023: Website development and pilot engagement activities
  • July 2021: Community and academic partner meeting to plan and design citizen science project grant application

The team

Where we worked

Sudan, Uganda, United Kingdom.