This is a series of posts in partnership with PERIOD.org for National Period Day.
In the 21st century we have seen progressive advancements made in societies by becoming intolerant towards any injustice. However our voice concerning women's reproductive health is shunned as there is an evident disgust and shame surrounded with the word “period.”
Menstruation is a process shared by every female on this planet yet widely stigmatized as an “illness,” “defect” or “that time of the month.” She spends that time being discriminated against and is made to feel ashamed for a natural process. It really makes one think that blood in war is celebrated and, yet, period blood is shamed because a woman is considered to be impure when she is on her period.
In many cultures, this so-called impurity often restricts women to be engaged in various activities for the name of “honor.” Surprisingly, this isn’t only done by men, but women as well. In the past, mothers rarely taught their daughter about periods and menstrual health mostly because there was a lack of education and a shameful topic to be discussed.
These beliefs haven’t changed for decades and today it is affecting generations of young girls’ health and future. Lack of menstrual education due to persistent socio-cultural norms leave women vulnerable to discrimination and exclusion. Many still live without access to sanitary products and are faced with restriction from the society.
Period shame is so deep rooted in our communities that girls sometimes take days off from school to avoid “humiliation” and women across the world struggle in their workplace due to no proper sanitary facilities. Moreover, a girl that has started her menstrual cycle is regarded as an “adult” and therefore ready for marriage. Traditional and western families bid their daughters goodbye breathing a sigh of relief as the burden is no longer theirs to carry.
It is a common misconception that various religions like Islam add to the stigma around periods. Islam is actually one of the religions that secures women from this discrimination and educates young girls and women about their cleanliness.
Taking a step back to reflect, we realize that the lack of empowerment and control young girls are taught to have effects and harms their future.
To end the stigmatization of menstruation we need to take the following steps
1. Build an open relationship with our daughters, sisters or female friends.
Until women are free to engage in discussions about their health, these taboos will continue to exist. Opening conversations with our sisters helps us to understand the significance of the problem and how it may spread if action isn’t taken.
2. Actively educate young girls about their menstrual cycle and their reproductive rights
Often times young girls are not aware of their rights and are victims to the cruel discrimination and injustices of their communities. Educating girls about their menstruation will not only help them take care of themselves but also raise a voice for when they are being wronged.
There is no doubt that further progress is needed. The time to take action is now. As individuals we need to understand that we are global citizens that contribute to the world we live in and as women we need to realize that owning power over what is ours is the first step. A step that will lead generations of empowered young girls that are aware about their rights.