Long before becoming one half of the most followed power-couples in the world, actress Meghan Markle – a World Vision Ambassador – was doing humanitarian work – striving for equality for women.
To mark International Women’s Day Meghan wrote a moving open letter for Time magazine about how the stigma and shame of menstruation is impacting young women around the world.
“From sub-Saharan Africa to India, Iran, and several other countries, the stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation directly inhibit young women from pursuing an education.”
“One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health,” she explains.
The Suits actress travelled to Delhi and Mumbai in January with World Vision to meet the women and girls directly impacted by the stigmatisation of menstrual health.
“During my time in the field, many girls shared that they feel embarrassed to go to school during their periods, ill equipped with rags instead of pads, unable to participate in sports, and without bathrooms available to care for themselves, they often opt to drop out of school entirely.”
The 35-year-old goes on to explain that there is minimal dialogue about menstrual health hygiene at school or at home due to the “taboo nature of the subject”.
“Many girls believe their bodies are purging evil spirits, or that they are injured once a month.”
Meghan reports that 23 per cent of girls in India drop out of school because of their periods, and return home to an increased “subjection to dangerous work, susceptibility to being victims of violence, and most commonly, being conditioned for early childhood marriage.”
“Beyond India, in communities all over the globe, young girls' potential is being squandered because we are too shy to talk about the most natural thing in the world,” she adds.
“To that I say: we need to push the conversation, mobilize policy making surrounding menstrual health initiatives, support organizations who foster girls' education from the ground up, and within our own homes, we need to rise above our puritanical bashfulness when it comes to talking about menstruation.”
In the letter, Meghan described a microfinance movement called Myna Mahila Foundation where women manufacture sanitary pads to sell to communities. Myna Mahlia is influencing positive change by openly discussing menstruation with young girls while supplying hygienic pads – what seems like such a basic need.