How Free Access to Pads can Change the World
What happens when a normal bodily function becomes an obstacle and dividing point in the education of young girls? All across the world, feminists alike are fighting to bring free access to pads and tampons in public school bathrooms. But why, you might ask. Tampons aren’t that expensive and surely the world has bigger issues, right? But 21% of America’s school children are living in poverty, and the average cost for one woman’s lifetime of periods is over $18,000. Families living in poverty are often forced with the question, pads or food?
This difficult decision can cause young girls to miss school every month, or use the same hygiene products for long periods of time, causing a higher risk of cervical cancer, toxic shock syndrome, and many other potentially fatal infections. Being forced into these decisions can not only harm girls physically, but emotionally as well. Wearing the same pad for two entire days can make a girl feel disgusted and uncomfortable with her body.
Menstruation also causes a rift in the education of boys and girls. The average age for a girl to get her first period is 12 and menopause, in most cases, won’t begin until a woman is well into her 40’s. So for three decades of their lives, girls around the world are forced to deal with this every month. Additionally, if a young woman’s period is causing her to miss school every month for two to seven days, she’s going to fall behind, no matter how hard the girl tries. And even if girls can buy their own products, periods are unpredictable and many girls will start their period in the middle of a school day, without anything to use.
Sceptics ask, why not just ask a teacher or a peer? But many young girls are embarrassed by the idea of asking for something considered personal in a professional environment and are forced to use things like toilet paper or paper towels in lieu of pads. According to freethetampon.com, 86% of women in the United States have started their period unexpectedly and without the supplies they needed. A common solution in some cases is that some schools have started offering free products in the school med centres or with the school nurses. However, many argue that this solution causes students to look at periods as something bad, like an illness, when periods should be looked at as nothing other than a scientific miracle. After all, none of us would be here if it wasn’t for periods.
When we treat periods with upturned noses and expressions of repulsion on our faces, we add to the stigma and encourage young girls to be ashamed of a natural process. In society, we often put other needs before the ones of young girls. In fact, in many high schools across America, students have free access to condoms, but not menstruation products. Not only is this ridiculous, but it’s perfect proof of our biased world. Of course, condoms are an important tool to stop the spread of STDs and to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but not having sex is much easier than not having your period.
We must ask ourselves, why do we feel the need to force young women to hide their periods, and shame them for speaking about it? Although getting your period for the first time is something many girls are apprehensive of, it’s also a major milestone. So, if this is such a big part of girls’ lives, and has been for millennia, why do we insist on humiliating them the minute they speak about it? If we start providing free pads and tampons in schools, that will be a step towards reversing the centuries old stigmatization of periods.