Before I start: I’m aware that not everyone who menstruates is a woman, and not every woman menstruates. If I have referred to women menstruating in this article, it is because the statistic or scenario I have mentioned specifies that. I’m sorry if that’s uncomfortable or even triggering to anyone, but I wanted to report this accurately and fairly.
Since 2013, people around the world have begun to celebrate MH Day! Last year, 33 countries ran national campaigns, and the movement is growing. The aim of the event is to promote good menstrual hygiene and to reduce stigma surrounding periods. It focuses on menstrual hygiene management (MHM), which is defined by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF as: “the articulation, awareness, information and confidence to manage menstruation with safety and dignity using safe hygienic materials, together with adequate water and spaces for washing, bathing and disposal with privacy.” UNESCO later added further factors, including “informed and comfortable professionals”, “referral and access to health services”, “positive social norms” and “advocacy and policy”.
It’s a sad fact that globally there’s a severe deficit in terms of access to menstrual products. In a lot of less economically developed countries, girls often have to miss school during their periods because they simply don’t have the materials to manage it. A study by the international development organisation SNV in 2014 found that girls in rural Uganda missed up to 8 days of school every term, amounting to 11% of their school attendance. This, and similar situations in other places, account for the drastic number of girls who drop out of school. I think it’s awful that anyone should have to forfeit their education for something that could be so easily managed. Even in countries like my own (UK), women from low income backgrounds and especially homeless women face the same struggle. There’s no standard practice of distributing menstrual products in food banks and it’s easy to forget just how expensive these products are until you consider the quantity we buy over our lifetime.
Furthermore, in many places menstruation is surrounded by social stigma. We see some evidence of it here: we whisper about it, we invent new and creative ways to describe it without actually saying the word “period”. Goddess forbid a cis man should ever be made to touch even an unused menstrual product! We really shouldn’t fear or dread periods. I’m not saying we should jump for joy when it arrives, but it’s downright silly to demonise a natural process.
I’d like to share the story of one man – yes, a man! – who set out on a journey to improve menstrual hygiene for the women in his local and national community.
Meet India’s Menstruation Man, Muruga:
^ He’s literally my fave. He sacrificed such a lot and worked so hard in order to make life that little bit easier and less painful every month for the women around him, and that’s truly admirable. Thank you, Muruga.
It’s my firm belief that, frankly, menstrual products ought to be as easily available as condoms. You can get condoms for free at any family planning clinic in the UK, as far as I’m aware, and they’re available discreetly and – again! – for free at my college. Condoms are, of course, wonderful things, but everybody who menstruates is guaranteed to require sanitary products throughout their lifetime. They should be free or at least not have an extra tax attached (which is their current status – it’s called the pink tax). Get on it, MPs.
Thank you for reading! Please like and share this to raise awareness! If you write your own post, make a vlog or otherwise celebrate the day, feel free to link it in a comment – I’d love to see it! To find out more, go to this link (for the official website!). I also adore Period Positive on Tumblr – check them out here.