Roughly 800 million girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating right now. And despite the fact these 800 million people menstruate every month, many still feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when it comes to just talking about it.
We believe no one should be held back because of their period. Yet, for many girls and young women around the world, the stigma and shame attached to menstruation can place their physical, sexual, and mental health at risk. Many have little access to sanitary products and adequate toilet facilities at school, which makes managing their period incredibly difficult. For some communities around the world with little access to clean water, reusable pads or underwear aren’t appropriate. Because of the damaging taboos and stigma attached to periods, many girls and women feel embarrassed to hang their reusable pads to dry where others could see them. There are also a lot of myths around menstruation, which mean some products such as menstrual cups or tampons, aren’t culturally accepted or appropriate. That’s why our programs are also working with communities to break down these damaging taboos to normalise periods.
Damaging myths and little access to period products restrict girls’ movements when they have their period, which can then affect their attendance and performance at school. The stigma attached to menstruation can also lead to teasing, shaming and exclusion from daily activities, which all have a negative effect on a girl’s sense of dignity.
In some cases, many adolescent girls struggle to understand what’s happening to their bodies when they have their first period, with some even fearing death. Some young girls may not even know what’s happening when they have their first period and they’re too frightened to tell anyone. And this is why ending period shame and smashing damaging myths is so important. Why? Because menstruation matters. Period.
Here are just some of the examples of how period myths and stigmas impact girls, women and all people who menstruate around the globe.
This is why Plan International is working across the globe to help make sure girls, and all people who menstruate, are able to overcome these myths about periods and to improve their menstrual health.
For many girls like Kadiatou, a lack of information on menstruation, poor sanitation infrastructure and the fact that menstrual hygiene products are often inaccessible are among the main challenges girls and young women face when managing their periods.
“The price of sanitary pads varies between 10 to 15 thousand Guinean francs and we need them every month for three days to a week for girls who have a long cycle. Girls often can’t afford to pay for them, so they are forced to isolate themselves at home. If they have to go to school during this time, it’s impossible. It’s the same thing for girls who have jobs,” Kadiatou explains.
That’s why Plan International is working with girl activists and leaders in communities to distribute reusable sanitary pads!
As well as breaking taboos about periods, these strong leaders are also using the opportunity to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention by distributing face masks and soap.
Plan International is also working to tackle period stigma and menstruation myths through our water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs, and providing girls and women with sexual reproductive health and rights information.