School and work absenteeism due to menstruation in three West African countries: findings from PMA2020 surveys

Julie Hennegan, Funmilola M. OlaOlorun, Sani Oumarou, Souleymane Alzouma, Georges Guiella, Elizabeth Omoluabi, Kellogg J. Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reports of school and work absences due to unmet menstrual needs have prompted increased attention to menstruation in policy and practice. However, there appear to be few quantitative studies reported in published literature capturing the prevalence of this hypothesised absenteeism. This study undertook secondary analysis of nationally representative Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) data from Burkina Faso and Nigeria, and city-representative data from Niamey, Niger to determine the extent of women’s and girls’ self-reported absence from school and work due to menstruation. Among women and adolescent girls aged 15–49 years who had worked outside the household in the past month in Burkina Faso (n = 998), Niger (n = 212) and Nigeria (n = 3638), 19%, 11% and 17%, respectively, reported missing work due to menstruation. Among those aged 15–24 years who attended school in the past year in Burkina Faso (n = 461), Niger (n = 213) and Nigeria (n = 1574), 17%, 15% and 23% reported missing school in the past year due to menstruation. Findings support the assertion that menstruation is a source of absenteeism in West Africa and indicate that greater attention from research, practice, and policy is needed. In presenting this data we also reflect critically on the performance of questions regarding menstrual-related absenteeism in national monitoring surveys. Future monitoring efforts should consider the interpretability of similar survey data when many respondents did not attend any school or work and were ineligible to answer questions regarding absenteeism. Further, without additional research identifying the reasons for absenteeism, findings from similar survey questions may be difficult to interpret with relevance for policy decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1915940
JournalSexual and Reproductive Health Matters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • dysmenorrhea
  • employment
  • menstrual health
  • menstrual hygiene
  • school attendance
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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