The issue of menstrual hygiene has, until very recently, been neglected and there has been a persistent reluctance to talk openly about this important subject. Menstrual hygiene is gaining growing attention, however, as a crucial aspect to achieving improved child health, education retention (in developing countries) and gender equality.
Menstruation is a natural process but if it is not properly managed it can result in health problems. The impact of poor menstrual hygiene on the psycho-social well-being of women and girls (including stress levels, fear and embarrassment, and social exclusion during menstruation) should also be considered.
Menstruation is an uncomfortable subject to discuss for many. Listeners blush with the sound of the word, posters are kept hidden and the unspeakable “M” word for many is kept discrete when compared to other topics of public health such as sexual and reproductive health and education.
The current silence about menstruation limits women’s and adolescent girls’ access to relevant and important information about their bodies, directly affecting their health, education, dignity and human rights.
Sanitation facilities and emergency supplies at schools is a global need
To manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity, it is essential that women and girls have access to basic sanitation. Women and girls need somewhere private to change sanitary cloths or pads; clean water and soap for washing their hands, bodies and reusable cloths; and facilities for safely disposing of used materials or a clean place to dry them if reusable (cloth pads).
A girl’s first period can be frightening! Here in the UK, and as a personal anecdote, until 5 years ago, our primary school did not have bins for menstrual waste collection in the year 6 toilet. My daughter was one of the oldest girls in the group and she had to walk around the school after her toilet visit to find the “grown up” toilet near the school’s reception area to dispose of the menstrual pad. This caused embarrassment but my girl felt the need to write a letter to the headmistress and the problem was solved. How many girls are in the same situation or worse – even in developed countries like the UK?
Access to materials
A few months back we were reading about the situations in the United States but the problem is also evident in the UK http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39266056, the girl featured in this article was unable to afford feminine hygiene products and felt she had no choice but to miss school in order ‘to avoid the embarrassment of staining her clothes’. When you hear this story you cannot imagine something like this happening here – in one of the world’s most advanced economies. The sad truth is that many low-income and/or homeless/ refugee girls and women cannot afford sanitary supplies. This website sums up the problem – http://thehomelessperiod.com/ and it appears that food banks just do not have enough of any feminine hygiene products to keep up with demand.
Monthlies is standing up for the girls and women in the UK and we are always thinking of ways to support them and promote awareness and contribute. You can donate our biodegradable sanitary products to a wide range of causes (including your local school) on our site. We hope you will support us in our efforts to help those that are less fortunate.