Period poverty, inequity and ignorance are massive clots hindering progress for gender equality and human rights.
It was Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH day) on 28 May, a timely reminder that access to safe and affordable hygiene products and sanitation for women and girls around the world is not a preference, it is essential. Individually and collectively we need to be informed, supportive and loud about this!
Funny story: When my period arrived at age 14, I told mum I thought it would be over in a couple of days, and I was devastated when she replied it might last for a week! I did not get much of an explanation from anyone about what to expect or what is a normal or healthy cycle. Mum shoved a ‘this is your body’ type book at me when I was about 12 and friends and I occasionally mentioned our periods in awkward, ‘have you got yours yet?’ conversations. I was so embarrassed by the loud noises sanitary packaging makes (for real people, why hasn’t someone invented QUIET packaging yet?), that I would take a pad and run down to the chicken pen 100 metres from our house, to change it there, so no one could hear me. I don’t know why I thought my family would care, but I did. The chickens definitely didn’t care!
Truth: I am quite lucky and privileged to have had few menstrual problems, and if I do notice something is not right, I know who I can talk to. There are many who do not have that privilege, nor valid options.
For many reasons, periods can be extremely painful, irregular, or non existent.
Periods can prevent girls from attending school or completing their education because they are unable to afford or find adequate menstrual products.
Periods are sometimes viewed as taboo and shameful and girls are forced to spend days or weeks inside segregated huts, which can be dangerous for their health and safety.
A lack of education about menstrual health can lead to unplanned pregnancy.
Jen Bell has spoken to trans men, nonbinary, and genderqueer people about their experience of periods and dysphoria.
The limited scientific and medical understanding of common conditions such as endometriosis (or it’s nasty cousin adenomyosis) mean the 1 in 10 people who have endo can be waiting years, even decades, for it to be diagnosed, and there is no cure.
The (birth control) pill has psychological affects that are not openly discussed enough to enable women to make informed decisions.
Medical gaslighting is real.
There are so many facets of menstrual hygiene and health that I cannot possibly do justice to them all here. I high recommend you check out this summary of MH day events and resources, kindly compiled by The Case for Her.
For those who can afford to choose how they manage their menstruation, you may be interested in exploring sustainable period products which reduce the amount of plastics and toxins entering our bodies and landfill.
How can we create better period outcomes?
Do your own research.
Have conversations with the people around you.
Advocate for better menstrual education for all genders.
Donate to organisations who create programs and facilities for safe menstrual hygiene.
Embrace the diversity of lived experience but speak up when you hear or see people dismissing or devaluing the impact menstruation can have.
What is your experience with periods? Have any important, funny or unique stories to share? Know of any menstruation-related resources or information we should look at? Please share with us!
All external links are correct as of time of posting. I have no affiliation with and do not promote or condone all content found via external links.