In a world where 50% of the population bleeds, we talk about menstruation in hushed tones, and it’s riddled with stigma and miscommunication. The shame starts to grow on you as soon as the first red dot hits you: your body suddenly becomes socially unacceptable and feelings of shame are rooted inside a psyche of a growing woman. With intentions to bring a voice to struggles of women’s and girls into light and promote a discussion around menstruation, WASH United initiated Menstrual Hygiene Day in 2014 and every year, it is celebrated on May 28th. Women’s issues regarding health, education and self-esteem are deeply tied to knowledge about adequate menstrual hygiene and education about it.
As a girl growing up, medical stores used to wrap my sanitary packets in layers and layers of newspapers & if that wasn’t enough, chocked tightly inside black polythene. Another part of the reality, a girl washes her blood soaked cloth in water unfit for cleaning it, ignorant of their basic right for safe periods. All over the world, many do not have safe and affordable feminine hygiene options available to them and it forces them to miss work for an average six days per month. Unsanitary menstrual materials also breed various vaginal infections. Possible reasons can range from poor government policies leading to increased cost of sanitary products to products simply not available in the remote corners of the world. Many organizations are working towards the cause but a lot of it still needs to be done.
Lack of proper awareness gives rise to misconceptions and strengthens the already established taboos in the society. Girls growing up in India are told that they are not allowed to enter temples because during “that time of the month” they are impure. In rural parts of Nepal, girls are not allowed to stay inside their homes fearing Gods will be angry at them and hence punish their family. Such bigoted practices are still prevalent which adversely affects the self-esteem of a growing child. Therefore, education becomes a vital key which is needed to open the locked doors of acceptance and eradicate taboo and social barriers.
As a reader of this article, the first step you can take in dissolving the barriers around menstruation is to talk to your friends and family about it. No bodily function is as misinterpreted as menstruation in this world and augment beginnings are one way to break barriers and pave way towards empowerment.