Around 800 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 experience menstruation each day. However, a natural biological process can be more than just a monthly inconvenience for many people. The process by which the uterus sheds blood and tissue through the vagina is known as menstruation. For girls and women of reproductive age, this is a healthy process. This is frequently referred to as “the period” in Western societies. It usually lasts between two and five days, but each person experiences it differently.
In some countries, menstruation is taboo or riddled with myths, and women and girls are excluded from daily activities because of stigma, shame or discrimination or because they are considered unclean. In others, menarche may lead to child marriage or sexual violence because it signals a girl is ready for motherhood or sexual activity. Girls may miss school because they do not have access to sanitary supplies, they are in pain or their schools lack adequate sanitary facilities. Some girls do not understand what’s happening to their bodies.
Period poverty, or the difficulty of purchasing menstrual products, has been addressed in some countries; however, more can be done, particularly to normalize something that 1.9 billion people of reproductive age do. Rights to health, dignity, and gender equality should not be lost because of menstruation. This means that they can get everything they need to control their periods at a price they can afford, without feeling ashamed, and all over the place; from period goods to facilities for washing.
Some nations, states, and cities all over the world have passed laws requiring schools to provide students with period products because they consider them to be as essential as toilet paper. However, there is still work to be done. Menstruation-related issues affect more than just women. 1.7 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation services. Nearly three-quarters of people living in developing nations do not have adequate home facilities for hand washing. Women and young girls find it more difficult to manage their periods safely and with dignity when they are unable to use these facilities.
How is it a problem?
All over the world, menstruating women are excluded from basic activities like eating certain foods and socializing. Women are prevented from attending school and working every day by a lack of resources and the cultural stigma associated with menstruation. Period poverty is the absence of sanitary products, education on menstrual hygiene, toilets, facilities for hand washing, and waste management. Reproductive and urinary tract infections have been linked to improper menstrual hygiene, which can put one’s physical health in jeopardy. 1.7 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation services. A disproportionate number of girls with disabilities lack access to the facilities and resources they require for proper menstrual hygiene. Following are a few related issues that can stem from managing menstruation in a poor manner.
Exclusion from public life
The idea that menstruating is dirty or shameful is one of the major factors that lead to the stigmatization of the issue. This perspective contributes to the restrictions that women and girls in many, if not all, countries face when they experience vaginal bleeding. Some restrictions are cultural, like the requirement that women and girls isolate themselves or that they cannot handle food or enter religious spaces. Self-imposed restrictions include Women and girls may be afraid to participate in school, athletic, or social events. These practices can reinforce the idea that women and girls are less able to participate in public life and have less right to public spaces.
Another common misconception is that women and girls’ menstrual cycles impair their physical and emotional abilities. Gender inequality is exacerbated by these ideas, which have the potential to hinder opportunities. In point of fact, menstruation does not in any way hinder the abilities of the majority of women and girls.
Barriers to sanitation and health
Access to safe, private washing facilities and culturally appropriate, high-quality menstrual supplies for women and girls can be restricted by poverty and humanitarian crises. Poor access to safe bathing facilities and menstrual supplies can also affect vulnerable women and girls in middle- and high-income countries, such as those living in impoverished schools, prisons, and shelters for the homeless.
The menstrual onset, also known as menarche, can breach the menstruating person’s human rights. Menarche is regarded as a sign that girls are ready for marriage or sexual activity in many parts of the world. As a result, girls are more likely to experience a variety of abuses, such as sexual abuse and even child marriage.
How are we contributing?
What is required during menstruation is now widely agreed upon:
- In order to absorb or collect menstrual blood, they must have safe access to clean materials that are acceptable to those who require them.
- They must be able to change these materials safely and privately, and they must have a place to wash or dispose of used menstrual supplies.
- Menstruating women must also be able to wash in privacy with soap and water in a safe environment.
- They ought to receive a fundamental education regarding the menstrual cycle and methods for coping with menstruation without fear or discomfort.
- Menstruating women should also have access to health care and information, allowing them to make informed decisions about how to manage their periods and seek treatment for menstrual-related disorders.
We have taken this upon us to create and build a supportive environment, accessible facilities including regular water supply and changing rooms, and easy access to sanitary supplies. Through our Period Poverty project, we are working among underprivileged communities around the world and conducting awareness workshops among women. Moreover, we have been distributing free of cost hygiene products among them to ease accessibility. Such awareness campaigns also help in eradicating the stigma around such a natural process.
What needs to be done?
According to advocates and researchers, availability of products alone is insufficient. Free menstrual supplies, for instance, do not necessarily increase access in some settings because community members are too uncomfortable to even discuss the issues related to menstruation.
1. Making the products accessible
When discussing period poverty, the primary focus is typically placed on gaining access to goods. Even though more than half of people either have menstruation or plan to have it, not enough of them have even basic access to period products to control their cycles. Monthly absences from work or school may result from this. In fact, statistics have shown that even in developed nations, 7% of menstruating students have missed school because of their periods. It may also necessitate the use of non-period products like used rags, toilet paper, and other products. For some residing in under-developed or developing nations , it might mean having to choose between putting food on the table and managing a period with appropriate products.
2. Respecting the needs
Shame has no place in the natural processes of the body. Menstruation stigma and shame can be extremely harmful. It may result in a lack of education, products, and access to health care. We can help alleviate stigma and shame by respecting each other’s bodies, including our periods, making it simpler to manage them with dignity. There are many ways to treat people with periods with respect. Understanding the needs of menstruating women without demeaning or delegitimizing their experiences means providing everyone with an open and honest education about periods. Respect and period dignity can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, including providing a safe space where discussions about periods can take place without being judged.
3. Educating the society
The stigma associated with periods can be broken down through education. When topics that are taboo are discussed in an open and respectful manner, they become less so. Period education doesn’t cover enough to help women who have periods understand what’s going on in their bodies, especially if they may have undiagnosed health issues related to their periods. Education about who has periods and the experiences of periods for traditionally marginalized communities, such as disabled people and people who are not women who menstruate, is essential in addition to education about periods in general.
4. Keeping the sustainability in consideration
In addition to period poverty, we are in a climate crisis. We must ensure that we are also protecting our planet and combating pollution as we combat the lack of access to period products. This means that more options for period products that are made in a sustainable way will be available to more people and that the contents of period products will be more transparent. Our Jute Pad is an excellent solution that addresses this issue and is good for the Earth as it decomposes quickly and has no chemicals. When catering to those with limited access to period products, recyclable, plastic-free, compostable, chlorine-free, and organic options must be prioritized.