In countless developing countries and poverty ridden communities, access to sanitary products is spare or nonexistent. This lack is one of the many reasons that contribute to girls choosing to skip or miss their schooling. In addition to the physical aspect of bleeding, there is deep-rooted cultural stigma surrounding one’s menstruation throughout many cultures. Hand in hand, poor access to menstrual products and longstanding taboos continuously make periods difficult and dangerous for people worldwide.
Last year, two young women died in Nepal while being exiled to a menstruation hut, where she and many others faced isolation, severe weather exposure, smoke inhalation, and were prone to animal attacks. Every year, millions of young girls in India are at risk of dropping out of school. Coupled with the disadvantageous situations facing them at schools. such as lack of toilets or running water, many are physically and emotionally discouraged from attending.
If someone missed school every time they got their period, they would be 145 days behind their peers. Many times, irregular attendance and lagging leads to dropping out, and most girls don’t ever make the key transition from primary to secondary school. When they opt for being at home instead of school, they are more likely to be exposed to circumstances that can ultimately affect their futures, such as difficulty re-entering school, subjection to precarious work, being vulnerable to abuse and violence, and premature or early marriage.
Fortunately, there have been growing advancements in menstrual hygiene worldwide, with India newly removing its 12% tax on sanitary pads, and other countries like the U.K. and the U.S. following behind, sprouting protest movements and legislation pushes of their own. Incidences of severe injury and deaths related to period stigma have led brave girls and women to rise up in their own communities and pave the way for acceptance, understanding and education, and safer environments for menstruating, with regards to their longstanding cultural and social norms.
We can all be active participants in addressing the universal problem of period inequity, through supporting organizations and brands that provide the less fortunate with sanitary products, to start! Let’s increase the awareness around this period reality that faces billions of people worldwide.