Menstrual Hygiene Day (also known as MH Day) takes place on 28th May every year, and aims to promote good menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) for all women, girls and people who menstruate around the world. More importantly, it is an opportunity to highlight the importance of MHH and raise awareness of barriers to this. Many women, girls and people who menstruate don’t have access to sanitary products or safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and aren’t able to manage their periods without shame or stigma. MH Day exists to put an end to this.
What is the theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022?
The theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022 is: ‘making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’. This means creating a world where no woman, girl or person who menstruates is held back by the fact that they have periods. It involves:
- everyone being able to access and afford their choice of period product;
- ending period stigma;
- everyone being provided with basic information around periods (including men, boys and those who don’t menstruate);
- everyone having access to period-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities everywhere.
What is period stigma?
Period stigma is a broad term for the stigma – including embarrassment and discrimination – associated with periods. It is believed to stem from misogynistic beliefs around menstruation, which continue to inform our attitudes on the subject today. Period stigma manifests itself in many different ways, such as:
- The idea that periods are ‘disgusting’, ‘dirty’ or ‘embarrassing’.
- Having to conceal or be discreet about menstruating, or hiding period products.
- Not being able to talk about periods, particularly with those who don’t menstruate.
- Not feeling able to tell someone about periods impacting on work or education.
- The assumption that periods always affect mood or productivity.
- Ambiguity around terminology relating to periods due to it being a taboo subject – such as using the terms ‘feminine’ or ‘sanitary’ instead of ‘period’ and ‘menstrual’, or using phrases such as ‘that time of the month’, ‘code red’, or ‘Aunt Flo’ to describe someone menstruating.
- Lack of access to period supplies.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty affects those who do not have access to the safe and hygienic period products that they need to manage menstruation, and/or those who are unable to manage their periods with dignity. It is a global issue, the consequences of which include the following:
Missing school due to periods – this has a negative impact on education, with reports showing that in Sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 20% of girls will miss school as a result of their periods, with some dropping out completely.1 This loss of education can also increase the risk of being forced into child marriage.
Increased risk of infection – this can be from using dirty rags instead of proper period products, or from using certain disposable products (such as tampons) multiple times. Reports show that 42% of UK girls have had to use makeshift period products because they struggle to afford menstrual products, while 27% have used a period product for longer than its intended use because they couldn’t afford a fresh one.2 The health risks are also higher for those who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
Community stigma – this may result in some women, girls and people who menstruate feeling persistent shame and fear around their periods and, in some situations, facing discrimination and social sanctions (such as chhapaudi in Nepal).3
- 1 Globally, periods are causing girls to be absent from school | World Bank Blogs
- 2 Let’s Talk. Period | Plan International UK
- 3 Chhaupadi and menstruation taboos | ActionAid UK
How can we work towards breaking the taboo around periods, as well as ending period poverty?
There are a number of things we can do to work towards ending period stigma and period poverty. These include:
Using the correct terminology to speak openly about menstruation
This means educating all young people (including men, boys and those who don’t menstruate) on why we menstruate, how to manage menstruation and the full range of products that can help people who menstruate to manage their periods. Ambiguity around terms related to periods only reinforces the idea that they are something to be ashamed of, so correct terminology is vital. Respecting someone’s right to privacy is important, but we must avoid perpetuating the idea that menstruation should be kept private.
Making period products easily accessible in schools, colleges and other youth settings
It is important for everyone to have access to the period products they need, and to feel like they can ask staff members for these. It’s easy to set up a collection box for donations if this would help. Menstrual products also shouldn’t be limited to female toilets or female-only spaces, and an effort should be made to make products available to trans and gender-nonconforming students, too.
Creating an environment where young people are able to talk to someone if their periods are affecting work
Make clear to students who they should talk to if they are having troubles with their periods, and offer appropriate support and reasonable adjustments where necessary.
Raising awareness of and donating to organisations that work towards ending period poverty
There are many charitable organisations across the globe which not only work towards breaking stigma around periods, but also collect donations in the form of period products to donate to those in need. Supporting these charities means supporting an end to period poverty.
Beyond RSE Material for Menstrual Hygiene Day
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