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5 Ways To End Period Stigma For Good

In honour of Menstrual Hygiene Day

Menstrual equity – the fight to ensure that people who get their periods have access to the products and support they need – is a hard fight. May 28 marks World Menstrual Hygiene Day, and while many of us have easy, affordable access to sanitary items, the lack of access and information about periods is still a huge problem in 2019. Period stigma is still a major factor for girls, and women, worldwide, with bullying, discrimination and even life-threatening conditions all being triggered by a woman’s lack of access to basic menstrual hygiene. 

Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia, is aiming to raise awareness of the challenges girls and women around the world face during menstruation. “Period poverty is a serious problem worldwide, and right here in Australia, but few people know about it. Part of the reason that it’s hidden from view is stigma,” Ms Legena said. “Girls everywhere face bullying and discrimination and are missing school, because they can’t afford menstrual hygiene products.” 

RELATED: Your Period: What’s ‘Normal’ And What’s Not?

In honour of Menstrual Hygiene Day, we’re exploring the issue of period stigma around the world, and what we can do to change it. 

For Some Young Women, Getting Your Period Means Missing School

In some countries, a lack of access to basic sanitary products means jeopardising their education. In Colombia poverty and discrimination adversely affect adolescent girls and women leading to high rates of gender inequality, violence and sexual abuse. Plan International partnered with Be Girl to break the taboo of menstruation among adolescent girls and boys to improve access to female hygiene products that allow girls to better manage their menstrual cycle. Plan International and Be Girl held a series of workshops in Cartegena to reach more than 3,600 girls in 15 municipalities. During training sessions, young women were provided with information about the menstrual cycle and were encouraged to reflect on their own experiences and discuss the issues they face.


It Took Two Years To Approve The Period Emoji

While the avocado and ginger-haired emojis were introduced to our keyboard without much fuss, the period emoji took two whole years. Over 55,000 people called for the icon to be added to the global emoji keyboard last year, with Plan International UK leading the campaign. Why? To help break down the silence, stigma and taboos surrounding periods, with Plan’s findings revealing a need for more accessible ways of talking about menstruation. So in an attempt to break down the stigma associated with periods, use the emoji as much as you can. 

Victoria Is Set To Become The First State To Supply Free Pads And Tampons In All Public Schools

In a national first, a re-elected Andrews Labor Government will provide pads and tampons in every government school – free of charge – because being able to access sanitary products shouldn’t be a barrier to getting a good education. While getting your period is a normal part of life, for female students it can cause inconvenience, frustration and embarrassment, especially as we all probably know, if it starts at school. Labor will provide free sanitary items in all female, unisex and accessible bathrooms at all government schools from term three, 2019.

A Period Documentary Won An Oscar

The documentary short Period. End of Sentence. won an Oscar this year, and its creators, Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton went up to accept the award, surrounded by other women. The film shows women in Hapur, India, who work to make affordable sanitary pads out of recycled materials and also educate their communities about menstruation to help end the stigma. It’s by far the most uplifting of the Documentary Shorts that were nominated, and it shows not only how women are making their voices heard, but how even people who feel too small to make an impact can change a lot of lives. The documentary is on Netflix now (here’s a link).

The fact of this film winning, of “menstrual equality” getting uttered onstage at the Academy Awards, is a miracle to anyone who has been following this issue. It so often feels like shouting into a void. 


Support Sustainability 

Modibodi, a sustainable and functional collection of period-proof underwear, briefs and maternity wear, aims to empower thousands of women globally to embrace their bodies. As part of their vision, Modibodi actively supports causes and organisations that are equally committed to the empowerment of women, including the Sustainable Period Project. A World-First project of its kind, the project is all about providing schools and health professionals with a free Resource Kit to facilitate discussions about modern sustainable sanitary options. Each kit contains samples of biodegradable disposable pads, reusable period underpants, reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, videos and activities that can be used for classroom education for years to come. The Sustainable Period Project aims to provide Resource Kits to all secondary schools by 2020.

Period stigma is dangerous: In a lot of places, women don’t have access to menstrual products they need, be it because of access or price or embarrassment. 

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