May 28 is World Menstrual Hygiene Day – an initiative started five years ago by a German-based NGO called WASH United (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). The 28th was selected to acknowledge that 28 days is the average length of the menstrual cycle. Since then the movement has spread across the world. In honour of this celebration, I wanted to create a post reflecting that.
Menstruation is a process that occurs in the lives of most women across geographical locations, tribes and socioeconomic status. It has been happening since the beginning of time. Yet it saddens me to know that there are still women in this day and age who do not have access to proper toilets or sanitary materials like pads or tampons. Amidst all the technological advancements and positive societal change we cannot let alone the fact that there are a lot of women out who cannot afford to buy a pack of sanitary pads.
This problem is particularly more prevalent in low-income countries. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, girls can miss up to 5 days of school a month or drop out entirely due to insufficient access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and menstrual hygiene products. According to data collected and reported on, Loughnan (2017) points out that half a billion (or 13%) of women lacked a place to defecate, have little to no privacy for menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and 3/4 of those lacked access to soap and water.
Imagine having to miss school and stay home in hiding because there are no materials to keep you clean and mobile during your period. It all adds up to constitute a significant number of out-of-school days, and this adversely affects education. Isn’t it a bit weird that condoms have been distributed price-free by various organisations for years yet pads aren’t distributed with the same vigor? It’s truly a funny world we find ourselves.
Two things I want us to learn from this: first, if you are menstruating female who can access and afford pads, be thankful. So many women across the world do not have this privilege. Secondly, access to sanitary materials and period-friendly restrooms should not be a privilege. Women should not have to pay so much to adequately maintain a process that their bodies are meant to do. Periods should not be so darn expensive. Thinking of a humanitarian mission to embark on? Making sanitary materials accessible and affordable to more women in your community is an amazing start.
It’s also interesting to know that this year’s theme was “Let’s End the Hesitation around Menstruation“. So many men and women have associated menstruation with words like ‘shame’, ‘disgusting’ and other negative terms. A good number of women will tell you that they were so terrified when they saw their first period. Some will tell you the mocking they received when their trousers/skirts were ‘stained’. The conversations that were supposed to be pep talks ended up instilling fear and shame in young females. “You are now a woman”. “Once you touch a boy you will get pregnant”. There was and still is a lot of unnecessary secrecy and stigmatisation surrounding periods. It’s about time all men and women come to terms with the fact that menstruating is normal. It is and will always be part of society.
So dear ladies, if the only item you want to purchase in the store is a pack of pads, please go on and do the needful. If anyone looks at you funny, look at them funny too. It’s only a backward- thinking person that will attach stigma to a perfectly normal process that your body is supposed to do. When you’re in need of help in something regarding your period, please don’t suffer in silence. Speak up and ask for help.
For the gentlemen, periods will never go away from society as our Lord lives (because it’s a perfectly normal process) so it will be in your best interest to not have a negative perception about it. Please learn to be understanding and not condescending, if you haven’t already.
We all, regardless of gender or past experience, need to properly educate ourselves so we can pass on accurate and helpful information regarding menstruation when the need arises. As the saying goes, “once you know better, you should do better”.
Thank you for reading :).