Theses Master's

Human Rights in Humanitarian Policy: Dissecting the Catalysts and Barriers to Employing a Human Rights-Based Approach in Drafting Menstrual Health into the Sphere 2018 Handbook

Amoakoh, Sydney

This research uses the concepts of human rights and rights-based humanitarianism to explore the catalysts and barriers to the provision of comprehensive guidance on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in the 2018 edition of The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (the Handbook). Sphere’s placement, for the first time, of MHM in its own section as a sub-standard of hygiene promotion, and the insight it lends on the circumstances, contexts and social dynamics in which menstruation is considered in emergencies worldwide, present the text as a strong case study for understanding contemporary facilitators and hurdles surrounding MHM interventions. After spending decades entrapped in cycles of stigma and low prioritization across the globe, more comprehensive approaches to MHM have gained attention in key humanitarian and public forums. This trend is reflected in the steps Sphere’s MHM section takes to consider menstruation beyond the purview of hygiene products and facilities. Yet oversights on considerations for intersectionality and marginalized groups, among others, present initial indications that historical barriers to comprehensive MHM response have reshaped themselves amidst improving gender diversity and menstrual literacy in Sphere Handbook drafting teams and the broader humanitarian field. Therefore, this research uses analyses of the published draft versions of the 2018 Handbook and interviews with the drafting team behind the MHM section to ascertain: What were the catalysts and barriers to employing a human rights-based approach to integrating menstrual health into the Sphere 2018 Handbook? Human rights and rights-based humanitarianism offer measures for evaluating the degree to which beneficiaries, their voices, and rights were placed at the center of the different published drafts of the 2018 Handbook, while interviews illuminate the MHM section drafters’ reasoning in deciding which elements of MHM to include and omit in said drafts. Findings re-affirmed the persistence of traditional barriers at certain levels of the broader field and the influence this has on Sphere drafting processes. They also shed light on the power harnessed by true personal understanding and prioritization of menstruation amongst all levels of humanitarian stakeholders, and particularly by those in key decision-making positions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Winkler, Inga T.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2019