Periods are a part of women’s lives. Menstruation is a natural, biological process and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Yet, every single day, women and girls around the world are prevented from reaching their full potential in school, at work and in greater society due to widespread taboos, stigmas and a lack of understanding surrounding menstruation.
At the 2019 Reykjavík Global Forum 25 outstanding organisations were given the Power, Together Award to acknowledge their commitment to ending the stigma women and girls face for the simple reason that they have periods. The Award was an occasion to continue amplifying the voices of these women and girl leaders who are not only changing circumstances for their fellow women, but are also challenging the entrenched structures that perpetuate a narrative of discrimination for certain members of the global community.
Not only do girls and women face intolerance and prejudice, but an absence of menstruation knowledge and poor menstruation hygiene can lead to serious consequences, including severe health risks, poor reproductive health, decreases in psychological wellbeing, lower quality education, and reinforcement of systemic inequality.
Inequalities are exacerbated in times of crisis. Despite the staggering onset of COVID-19 worldwide, raising awareness is as important as ever. Periods don’t stop for pandemics. Many women and girls’ are experiencing considerable difficulty obtaining health and hygiene services, as well as sanitary products. Some are even forced to confront increased instances of ignorance due to the restrictions of confinement.
So, let’s envision a world where women and men, girls and boys, are able to contribute equally to society and are able to access the same opportunities. This is a world in which girls would not have to choose between attending school while menstruating or staying home for fear of ignorant abuse. This is a world where sanitary products are made accessible or free to all women and girls.
To reach this goal, menstruation education and the dismantling of stigmatisation must become pervasive. Destigmatisation needs to be supported by appropriate legislation and regulations so that the dignity, health, and safety of women and girls is not compromised.