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Coming of age: a qualitative study of adolescent girls’ menstrual preparedness in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Jordan

Menstrual health is important for adolescent girls and is particularly compromised in displaced communities due to restricted access to information and lack of private spaces to manage menstruation. Menarche is the biological and social milestone of girls’ adolescence, marking the onset of puberty and confirming womanhood in many communities. It also marks a difficult transitional period influenced by socio-cultural beliefs and expectations. Menstrual preparedness is critical for this transition, and the lack of accurate, timely, age-appropriate information might impact current, and future reproductive health and well-being. This paper investigates the menstrual preparedness status of adolescents living in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Jordan. These are long-term refugee camps characterised by a variety of social, economic, and political constraints affecting the health of women and girls. We conducted 39 indepth interviews and 23 focus-group discussions with adolescent girls. The study reveals inadequate menstrual preparedness among the participants, especially in pre-menarche. Among the barriers to adequate menstrual preparedness is a predominance of practical concerns, such as the use of sanitary pads and hygienic practices, socio-cultural norms that promote secrecy and taboo around menstruation, and divergent notions of timeliness of information among girls, their mothers, and teachers. The study contends that addressing the taboo around menstruation requires joint efforts by the family, school, and social services. Menstrual preparedness should begin early and encompass biological, practical, emotional, and psychological components. The paper advocates for Comprehensive, Contextually Relevant, Timely Menstrual Preparedness (CCTMP) policies and initiatives, empowering adolescent girls, their mothers, and educators.

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