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In May 2018, the UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) convened the inaugural East and Southern Africa Menstrual Health Management (MHM) Symposium. This was the first time UNFPA in such a visible manner had addressed the issue of menstruation as an integral part of sexual and reproductive health and rights, which in turn builds on the WHO definition of ‘health’ (WHO, 1948), and considered the role that UNFPA might play.

The symposium led to the Johannesburg Call to Action: Improving Menstrual Health Management in Africa, with a number of recommendations and commitments. These included the establishment of the African Coalition for Menstrual Health Management (ACMHM), created as an effort to continue the convergence and exchange of perspectives seen at the Symposium and to tap into the excitement of the MHM movement across the continent. UNFPA ESARO has hosted the ACMHM from September 2018 to date. The Call to Action recommended a follow-up symposium, to be held within two years (i.e., 2020 extended to 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic).

As part of the extensive preparations for the 2021 Symposium, a review paper was commissioned. It considered some of the key issues, highlights, successes and challenges within menstrual health management, with a specific focus on East and Southern Africa. This rapid review was commissioned to take stock and document progress made in ESA since the 2018 Symposium, including at country level, and with the additional purpose of assessing and documenting the impact of the strengthened advocacy through the ACMHM.