Why do we need Menstrual Hygiene Day?
Until a couple of months ago I had no idea that menstrual hygiene day was even a thing. But we don’t half need it.
Between the lack of proper education on menstrual health, the feelings of it being shameful and period poverty right here in the UK we’re in dire need of menstrual hygiene day.
** When I use the words girl/s, woman, women in this blog post I’m talking about anyone who menstruates**
Shame and Embarassment
Even now, as I approach 30, I’m still embarassed to talk about periods with some people. I still hate buying pads in the supermarket, or unpacking them with the rest of my Tesco delivery. Even though around half of the population have them we still feel like periods are something to be ashamed of and to hide.
This quote from Plan International UK really struck a chord with me:
“The anticipation of encountering negative reactions and discrimination after a menstrual leak leads girls to actively change their behaviour; for example, avoiding white clothing or abstaining from certain activities such as swimming.”
I’m going to guess that this is true for at least 90% of people biologically born female who will read this post. When I was at school I remember pulling my knickers up so high that I had a permanent wedgie when I was on my period because I was terrified that someone would see my pad through my trousers. Oh the chaffing!
And when you think about how periods are treated in the media, especially adverts for pads and tampons, it’s no wonder we feel like this. Until last year no advert for sanitary products had shown period blood on TV. Not one. It’s shocking.
Fear of Looking Unattractive
Another part of this Plan International UK report that I was really able to relate to was this
“One focus group in Northern Ireland discussed the need to hide all evidence of menstruation around boys, especially if you want them to find you attractive.”
As a teen you just want to be accepted – I did anyway. Your hormones are raging and you worry about looking attractive for someone you fancy. When periods are seen as something to be hidden you’ll do anything to make sure it stays that way.
Again,it’s an idea that seems to be pushed by adverts for pads and tampons. They try to sell basically translate to ‘look how good our pads/tampons are – no-one will even know you’re on your period’. Lets be honest, no-one wants to wear a big sign saying ‘I’m on my period’ but we shouldn’t be afraid of being ‘found out’ either.
Education on Periods
This is where education comes in. Everyone, people biologically born both male and female, should know about periods. Even if al it does is stop those people who use ‘is it that time of the month?’ as a way to stop you from winning an argument.
Education of Girls
The quality of education on puberty and in particular periods, varies widely across the UK and the world. I actually had my first period during the week where we were learning about them in science at school. So that was pretty good timing (as close to good timing as periods ever get) and also it was something my mum had talked about to me too. So yeah, I was one of the luckier ones.
When I was reading a Water Aid report I was horrified to read some statistics about girls education about periods in more eastern countries.
- 48% of girls in Iran, 10% in India and 7% in Afghanistan believe menstruation is a disease
- 51% of girls in Afghanistan and 82% in Malawi were unaware of periods before their first period
Periods are bad enough when you know what they are and are expecting them. I dread to think how these young girls must feel when their first periods start.
Education of Boys
I’ve read a lot of anecdotes online lately where it borders on ridiculous how little men know about periods. Stories of men who think tampons double up as sex toys, those who think that women can ‘hold it in’ and those who think that we can choose whether or not to have a period (this has got to be a lie!).
But if even a fraction of these stories are true it’s a worry that some people don’t know how the female body actually works. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be those who use women having periods as another stick to beat us with, but that number might come down if more people who didn’t have periods understood the realities of menstruation.
I first wrote about period poverty late ast year. Until then I naiively had no idea it was a problem here in the UK, but with the number of people using foodbanks on the increase I should have worked it out.
Period poverty is when girls/women have to go without proper sanitary protection for their periods. When I was growing up this was something I took for granted because there were always pads and tampons there in the bathroom when I needed them.
Not having clean pads or tampons can have a big effect on women and young girls.
I’ve read stories of girls sellotaping newpaper or tissues to their underwear because they don’t have any pads. Some girls might go a whole day wearing the same pad or tampon.
According to Water Aid, using newpaper or tissues instead of sanitary pads can increase the risk of bacteria causing infections within the vulva or vagina. Not changing pads often enough can cause skin irritation which can turn into infected wounds.
Just think about this for a second. Some people risk their health every month because they don’t have access to proper sanitary pads and tampons. This happens here in the UK as well as other parts of the world.
Some girls might decide to just wait out their period at home rather than go to school with makeshift protection. It’s probably the safer option healthwise but it sends a chill down my spine to think of just how many days of education is lost here in the UK because of girls on their periods.
It’s so unfair that not only are these kids more likely to be from less priviliged backgrounds (because they can’t afford to buy pads/tampons) but they then miss out on their education too. Meaning that they have less chance of getting out of period poverty – it’s like a never-ending cycle and it’s wrong on so many levels.
So why do we need Menstrual Hygiene day?
We need menstrual hygiene day because we shouldn’t treat periods like a contagious disease or something to be ashamed of. It happens to almost half the population and we all, including me just need to get over it. Seriously.
The more people who are taught properly about puberty, periods and period hygiene the less stigmatised it will be. And we’ll have less girls scared they’ve got an awful disease when their first period turns up.
We need to get rid of period poverty. It’s unacceptable that any girl, in any school anywhere in the world misses out on their education just because they’re on their period. I’m hoping that menstrual hygiene day will help get the message out there that this is a problem that really needs fixing.
What are your thoughts on menstrual hygiene day? Do you agree with me that we desperately need it or is it just a waste of time and effort? As always leave me a comment and let me know
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