Menstruation, Taboos, and Period PovertyOctober 15th, 2021
Resorting to newspapers, bags, socks and rags; women and girls around the world continue to suffer from period poverty. The discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos and little to no access to menstrual hygiene supplies negatively impact females’ participation at school and work writes Aashraya Seth, 28-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from India. He argues that period poverty is a global issue and it needs to be addressed.
Why is the subject of menstruation taboo? Roughly half of the female population (around 26 per cent of the global population) are of reproductive age. For little girls, it is a time to benefit from the support of family and friends. Yet, as normal as it is, menstruation is misunderstood around the world.
An inaccurate understanding of menstruation gives way to misconceptions and superstition. In the USA, the use of tampons is sometimes advised against because it is believed that it could break the hymen, and make women “impure.” In India, women are not allowed to enter temples or the kitchen when they are menstruating as they are considered impure during that time. And in Romania, it is believed that a menstruator upon touching a flower can make it wilt.
Uninformed ideas around menstruation can also put women in danger. In Nepal, women seeing their period are forced to stay outside the house and often remain in cattle sheds or someplace outside the house.
Plus, a lack of information about menstruation causes girls to miss out on childhood experiences and hold women back in societies. So, the question has to be asked: what can we do to mitigate the misconceptions about menstruation?
Educating girls and boys, both at school and home, on menstruation builds their confidence, encourages healthy habits and contributes to social solidarity in spreading awareness of and support in addressing uterus-related issues facing women such as period poverty and PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease,) which affects a woman’s hormone levels.
“Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints.” Many women and girls do not have access to sanitary products. Oftentimes they are forced to give up their education or jobs because of this.
Open conversations are a start when attempting to change policies. Attention may be garnered from leaders when there are a number of people publicly discussing issues like period poverty as it can reveal the seriousness and scope of the issue.
We also need diversified and inclusive power structures, so that we can better represent and prioritise these concerns and the voices of victims.
In New Zealand, period products are given freely at schools. This could be a significant step towards wiping out period poverty in the country. It also shows the effectiveness of having women in political structures.
There’s no doubt that it would take almost double the effort to wipe out period poverty in developing countries like India. But through solidarity, we can increase efforts in the fight to end period poverty.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
About Aashraya Seth: Aashraya is a transnational practitioner of SDGs and is engaged in accelerating education, cultural and climate diplomacy. He is an award-winning social innovator and founder of projects like STEMinism in India, Project Red and My Pad Banks. He has led several development projects of the British, Indian and Australian governments and continues to represent India on various multilateral platforms.