Today, 28th May, is the big day! As I read the many positive tweets from all around the world #MenstruationMatters #MenstrualHygiene I feel a great deal of hope that attitudes towards menstruation are changing. Thank you WASH for all you are doing!
Reading deeper into the Menstrual Hygiene Day website, I learned about how women all over the world are still suffering. It reminded me what I have, and often take for granted, but am so so grateful for. It fired me up to spread awareness of the circumstances in which so many women and girls are living, all over the world. Please share.
Here are 10 reasons I feel grateful today:
1. I have access to safe clean water and I am healthy (In one study by HERProject, 73% of the Bangladeshi garment workers they interviewed miss work for an average of 6 days per month (resulting in unpaid work days) due to vaginal infections caused by unsanitary menstrual materials).
2. I can choose which type of sanitary protection I want to use. I chose pretty re-usable cloth pads that I can wash dry and care for easily. (In urban India, 43%-88% of girls use reusable cloth, yet they are often washed without soap or clean water).
3. My cloth pads are beautifully designed, comfortable and soft. (In rural India, many women and girls use unsanitary materials such as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic and safe products and facilities).
4. I never have to stay at home because I don’t have sanitary protection. (A study at a school in Uganda found that half of the girl pupils missed 1-3 school days a month, or 8-24 school days a year. UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 African girls miss school during menses, eventually leading to a higher school drop out rate).
5. When I was at school we had menstrual hygiene facilities and services. We had a school first aid room. (In India, 66 % of girls-only schools do not have functioning toilets and 83% of girls in Burkina Faso and 77% in Niger have no place at school to change their sanitary menstrual materials).
6. We had a presentation about menstruation and were taught about our bodies. (32.5% of school girls from South Asia had not heard about menstruation prior to menarche and an overwhelming 97.5% did not know that menstrual blood came from the uterus).
7. Menstruating did not prevent me from participating in class (In Sierra Leone, girls who are normally active classroom participants sit in the back because they worried about emitting an odor or leaking through their clothes while menstruating).
8. Or work…(Often, male managers do not understand why women need to use the toilet more frequently while menstruating. This adds to women’s discomfort and shame, which may result in women missing work).
9. I was never taught that menstruation was a disease (48% of girls in Iran, 10% in India and 7% in Afghanistan believe that menstruation is a disease).
10. I have a respectful partner and the men around me are supportive empathetic sensitive and aware of the ‘taboos’ surrounding menstruation. (Men’s and boys’ knowledge is sometimes laced with negative stereotypes, reinforcing the negative stigmas attached to menstruation).
I just feel more and more committed to spreading the positive word and opening up the conversation about menstruation! For the activism page click here, for information about taking menstrual cycle workshops out on the road, click here.