Menstruation is inarguably a natural part of a woman’s health cycle, but for those who live in underdeveloped areas, it’s their most dreaded time of the month.
Due to a lack of access to sanitary products, girls are often forced to miss school and low-income women are more susceptible to infections and other devastating consequences. “In places where women’s bodies are viewed with suspicion, damaging social stigmas and myths cast them away from the community, limiting their job options and social interactions, which inevitably takes an incalculable socioeconomic, physical and mental toll on their lives.” - Eleanor Goldberg, Huffington Post
According to 'The Girl Project' by Beyond Water “For many girls hitting puberty is something to be feared. When your parents are only earning $2 per day the thought of buying sanitary products is not high on their list. The result is that girls are spending up to 3 months each year out of school. It puts them further at a disadvantage and their future options are slim. Providing girls with sanitary products is an effective way to help break the poverty cycle. The longer they stay in school, the more likely they are to succeed in providing for their families.”
In many countries, girls cut up pieces of mattress or use twigs and leaves as pads, causing infection. At about 60 cents a pop, even the cheapest package of sanitary pads is far too expensive for the average girl to purchase.
In parts of Nepal, menstruating girls are banished to dark rooms. These women and girls are typically sent to live in a shed during this period, where they have minimal protection from the elements, can develop life-threatening illnesses and have little to no human contact.
Menstruation is a “strict secret” in Malawi. The shame surrounding getting your period is so pervasive in Malawi that parents simply don’t talk to their kids about it, according to UNICEF.
In Bolivia, girls are told to keep pads unseen, and even led to believe menstrual blood can cause cancer. There’s still so much humiliation surrounding the issue of menstruation in Bolivia that girls are urged, even by teachers, to keep their used sanitary pads far away from the rest of the rubbish.
In parts of India, women and girls are told their periods can “pollute” food. Folklore has some girls and women in India convinced that if they handle a pickled vegetable while they’re menstruating, it will spoil just from their touch.
In Afghanistan, women are told they’ll become infertile if they shower during menstruation, which takes a toll on their dignity.
There’s still so much stigma and misinformation surrounding menstruation in Iran that 48% of girls there think that it’s a disease, according to a UNICEF study.
Want to get involved and help? Here are some great organisations helping turn the tide:
The Girl Project: www.beyondwater.org.au
The Girl Project is a Nairobi based health and sanitation program in the Kibera Slum.
They have 27 girls from 6 different schools attending the program on the third Saturday of each month. Each month the girls meet for two hours to not only receive their sanitary packs but also learn about life skills that will better their lives. The girls are from families living in the Kibera Slum but are attending school. These are youth forums where teenagers can meet in a safe place and discuss real world issues such as health, HIV/AIDS, career options, making right choices and topics relevant to their world.
Days for Girls: www.daysforgirls.org
Every girl in the world deserves education, safety, and dignity. We help girls gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene and awareness, by direct distribution of sustainable feminine hygiene kits, by partnering with nonprofits, groups and organizations, by raising awareness, and by helpingcommunities around the world start their own programs. Thanks to a global grassroot network of thousands of volunteers and supporters on 6 continents, we have reached women and girls in 85+ countries on 6 continents. It's working. You can help us reach the rest.
One Girl: www.onegirl.org.au/what-we- do/launchpad
A majority of women in Sierra Leone don’t have a hygienic way of managing their period. Women may use five pairs of underwear, kitchen sponges, old cloth and other makeshift materials to manage their menstruation. Due to the unhygienic nature of these materials, women experience rashes, sores and bruising. LaunchPad’s sanitary pad products have been carefully designed and selected based on the needs of our customers, cultural taboos and the environment. LaunchPad sells affordable eco-friendly sanitary that are sourced from Uganda through our partner Makapads.