Menstrual Hygiene around the World

girls in africa

Menstrual hygiene and ample choice of supplies are things we take for granted in the United States, like clean pads and tampons.  Another thing we don’t even think about is that if we get our period at school or at work, we have options for dealing with it.  We can discretely ask to borrow a tampon or find a bathroom with a machine to buy one.  The worst case scenario is that we make a homemade pad from rolled up toilet paper to get us through the next hour or so until we can find a real one.

All of these will work and even the worst case scenario is better than using mud, leaves, grasses or literal “rags.”  In some countries the worst case scenario is bleeding through clothes and embarrassment, followed by staying at home because of a lack of supplies.  NPR recently wrote about this topic and you can find their compelling article here.

Unless your symptoms are debilitating, you typically won’t miss school or work due to period bleeding.  That isn’t the case for women and girls in other parts of the world.  May 28th is menstrual hygiene day…yes, one day.  Many diseases get a month, but a normal bodily function that affects 50% of the global population on a monthly basis has one day.  There was a lot of information shared on social media on May 28th about these issues.

If you have a Twitter handle, do a little research using #menstrualhealth.  You will see some charts from many worthy NGO’s that are dealing with the lack menstruation supplies in unique ways.  The bottom line for most of these organizations is to empower women through jobs by manufacturing supplies in a local setting and keeping young girls in school by giving them sanitary pads.

Just something to think about next time you are bummed because you have to stash a tampon in a clutch for an evening out.  We are so lucky to have clean supplies!

How Menstruation Keeps Girls Out of School

Three young Nepalese girls

For many women and girls in Nepal, menstruation can make education--and personal safety--difficult.
Image: Det-anan / Shutterstock.com

For many of us, getting our periods may be a little annoying, but it’s also considered a normal part of life. For millions around the world, though, getting a period every month can have serious consequences for school, jobs, and even health and personal safety.

In Nepal, for example, about 30% of girls miss school every month due to their periods, according to Her Turn. And UNICEF reports that 95% of girls surveyed in mid- and far western Nepal have to deal with some sort of restriction when they’re menstruating, due in large part to a tradition called chaupadi, which, depending on the culture, can mean women aren’t allowed to touch men, read books, or even sleep or eat in the same place as the rest of the family. In fact, many women are forced to stay in a shed during their periods, which means no heating during the winter, potential animal attacks, and even asphyxiation and burns due to trying to build fires in small spaces. Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled chaupadi illegal in 2005, but it’s still practiced in many places.

Even in places where chaupadi isn’t a tradition, girls still face challenges with menstruation because the facilities in their schools aren’t private or sanitary. Girls use newspaper, leaves, or even sand and ash instead of sanitary pads or tampons, simply because they don’t have access to or education about anything better!

And sure, skipping school might sound great, but it can have negative results in the future. The Girl Effect found that an additional year of primary school education can boost girls’ income from 10-20%. And an additional year of secondary school can raise it another 15-25%!

Taking all of this into account, several organizations got together last November to lead a discussion on menstruation and its effects on menstruation. Using the hashtag #PointPeriod, Her Turn and the Day of the Girl Summit asked and answered questions about the issue, hoping to raise awareness. It’s definitely worth checking out!