Menstrual Hygiene is the Key to Global Development

By Nadya Okamoto 

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and break the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key—and a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

 

Menstruation in Developing Countries

Women’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries (Femme International) In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. In rural Uganda, girls miss up to the 8 days of school each term. That is almost a full week of class. 25% of one’s school month. Think about that…because of periods, girls and other menstruating people are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

 

In many countries, periods can be scary for what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

 

Negative Consequences of the Menstruation Taboo

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to the something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women, girls, and other menstruating people to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period. 

 

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls and other menstruating people feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman and a person to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness point.

 

To conclude...

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a natural need. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of that natural right to reach one’s full potential. We all need to become advocates for natural needs. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women, girls, and other menstruating people all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable. The menstrual movement is a universal movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women, and those outside the binary—let’s all give power to the period starting right now! 

 

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

  • Learn about MY driving force--watch my TEDxPortland talk and learn why I became some interested in Camions of Care and why I think everyone should care about menstrual hygiene on a global scale.
  • Camions of Care--is now a global youth-run nonprofit that strives to manage menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service---through the global distribution of menstrual hygiene products and development of youth leadership through campus chapters.
  • Start a chapter
  • Contribute to our cause--Each care package is worth under two dollars, and provides enough for an entire menstrual cycle.

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