Menstruation. It’s hardly the dinner table talking point. In fact, it’s something many people shy away from or go rosy in the cheeks at the slightest mention. But here at Plan, we’re here to break that taboo because menstruation matters. Menstruation has massive implications on the well-being of women and adolescent girls all over the world. In fact, it has affects women and adolescent girls around 3,500 days of their lifetime.
Since menstruation is experienced and managed by girls and women, it often has a quieter voice and a low priority for development projects but we’re working to change that. Plan is focusing on three areas to make that ‘time of the month’ more manageable for women and adolescent girls all over the world. The areas are:
Overcoming stigmas and taboos surrounding menstruation
We’re addressing stigmas and taboos by talking about menstrual hygiene in creative safe spaces (through radio or community radio) and increasing knowledge of boys, girls, men and women on the reality of menstruation and how adolescent girls can be supported through school education.
Increasing access to and investment in safe and sanitary products and facilities
Only 12 percent of girls and women have access to sanitary products around the world. The rest rely on materials such as old, dirty rags, newspaper, leaves, dirt, and other unhygienic materials that often lead to infection and embarrassment due to leaks and odour. We are currently working on menstrual management projects in Uganda, a country where:
- 28 percent of girls in Uganda do not go to school when they have their period, which accounts for 20 percent of whole school year.
- Girl adolescents stay at home because they don’t have access to hygienic and affordable sanitary pads.
- 18 percent of the girls leave school before graduating, of which 46 percent do not go to school because they don’t have proper water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
There is need for private latrines for girls, water for washing, and access to locally appropriate sanitary products for girls to reduce girls from dropping out of school. Selling affordable locally made pads can also help sellers to earn an income in their communities.
Engaging men and boys
Educating adolescent boys on the challenges and struggles girls face could help decrease their misconceptions, while at the same time helping them become more understanding and supportive brothers, husbands, and fathers. In developing countries, fathers are often the breadwinners and decision-makers in families. Educating them about menstrual hygiene is crucial because they determine the budget for sanitary products.
A PROFILE OF OUR WORK
Here’s a selection of some of our favourite stories that show the difficulties adolescent girls face when they start menstruation and how we’ve helped them make that uncomfortable ‘time of the month’ more manageable.
The goal shooter - Christine’s story
For a teenage girl, getting your period for the first time can be overwhelming. When you don't understand what's happening to your body, it can be terrifying. In Uganda, many girls miss school because of their period – and some drop out altogether. But not Christine. With Plan's support, she learned how to manage her period and stay in school.
A photo story: My first period
Confined in doors for seven days, banned from using salt in food and missed school classes. Here, nine girls from across world bravely open up about the stigmas and difficulties they faced when they got their first period. We are working in communities across Asia and Africa to ensure young girls are educated on how to manage their menstrual hygiene. Why? Because menstruation matters. Period.
Finally I knew what was happening every month - Agnes’ story
When Agnes (16) was eleven years old she suddenly had blood on her dress. She was in the classroom and everyone started laughing at her. She started to cry, because she had no idea what was wrong with her. She even thought she was dying. Agnes didn’t confide in anyone about it, because she felt incredibly ashamed.
I used my Grandmother's old clothes - Moreen and Peace’s story
Dealing with periods in the West may mean, a sore tummy, perhaps feeling a little more irritable. And you need to remember to take pads or tampons with you when you go to school. But it is nothing compared to girls in Uganda having their periods. Here is Moreen and Peace's story.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day, Plan has partnered with Iris International, who works to support the education and empowerment of women and girls in East Africa through addressing the negelected issue of menstrual hygiene management.