According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, women today have an estimated 450 periods during their life. Averaging about 3-7 days a month for 42 years, menstruation is a natural thing that most women undergo. Although periods are a large part of women’s lives, there are a myriad of women around the world who are socially and economically having difficulties with regards to menstruation.
Menstruation is one of the human rights that have been disregarded the most in the world. It impacts and influences a wide spectrum of fields: education, sanitation, the environment and more. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are at least five hundred million girls who are living in an environment with no appropriate menstrual facilities.
Let’s take a look at Uganda.
Most of the girls in Uganda cannot afford to buy what we consider everyday necessities for their menstrual period. Therefore, they use old clothes, leaves, or toilet paper as their countermeasure. However, these methods are not only inconvenient, they have a low absorption rate, and are also unsanitary potentially creating more severe health problems like hormonal imbalances and unexplained pelvic pain.
However, many of the girls are not aware of this sanitary problem, because they do not have precise information and perceive the menstrual cycle and period as a sign of puberty. In fact, most recognize it with stress and shame.
During periods, due to the girls’ anxiety that the blood might leak, many can not concentrate on studying. Moreover, they are prone to become an object of ridicule of boys if it leaks because of the social ambiance that periods are shameful. Thus, although school is the only place to fulfill their academic endeavor, many choose to not go to school during their periods. According to the Uganda Health Department, 61.7% of juveniles have answered “yes” to having an experience of not going to school during their periods.
These problems about menstrual products and period shaming has been consistent within United States too. New York congresswoman Grace Meng has stated, “[many girls skip school during their periods [because ] if they can’t afford pads or tampons…they may feel like they have no choice.”
In an interview with JSR, Julia Y. noted, “I think I kind of get the jist of what Grace Meng said. In most of the schools, at least where I went, it was common for girls to go to the nurse to ask for pads or tampons. It was so embarrassing for me.”
Fortunately, the United States seems to recognize menstrual equity. For the past year, there have been many public events related to periods such as women’s marathons to raise awareness. With increased interest and support for gender equality and feminism in the public sphere, it seems menstrual equity is progressing little by little. In the end, there is hope for girls to finally be confident in their changing bodies and not allow that to hinder their chances at educational opportunities.