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Breaking the silence on menstruation

May 28, 2015

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The inability to manage menstrual health results in more gender inequality and disempowerment for women. —Creative commons
The inability to manage menstrual health results in more gender inequality and disempowerment for women. —Creative commons

We have a lot of days related to women on the calendar, but May 28th is one that I hadn’t heard about before: Global Menstrual Hygiene Day.

I was alerted to this by Irise International, an NGO that addresses inadequate Menstrual Hygiene Management in developing nations. Irise educates girls and women about their periods, supports local social businesses where women make reusable sanitary products, and conducts research to find out the effectiveness of their programs.

Menstrual periods, which are natural and happen to every girl and woman around the world, can actually be a problem for women who are economically disadvantaged.

Without the resources to manage their hygiene during days they have their periods, they may not be able to go to school or university, or their jobs, and their abilities to make good decisions about their menstrual health are compromised.

This results in more gender inequality and disempowerment.

Also read: Nepali girls confined by stigma and superstition

There’s also a campaign which challenges the taboos of writing about menstrual hygiene, which I am breaking by writing about this very important topic on World Menstrual Hygiene Day.

It is especially important to break the silence on this topic, so that millions of young girls every year don’t see their period as a disability, but a natural, normal part of their lives.

We need this all over the world, including Pakistan, where although girls are not ostracised from society during their periods, not having access to sanitary pads or toilets makes a girl a prisoner of her home during her period.

She can’t go to school if she can’t find pads to wear, or a toilet in which to change them in the school premises.

Also read: The dirty truth: 41 million Pakistanis without toilets

So, why not speak up about it today? In our culture, we’re brainwashed into thinking that we should be ashamed about periods, that we should keep it to ourselves.

It was a revolution when commercials for sanitary products started to appear on television.

Sharam” and “Haya” are still words used to condemn conversations about menstruation; important conversations that we need to have with our children, girls and boys, about these facts of life.

In the early days of Islam, people would ask the Prophet (PBUH) about technicalities regarding menstruation and prayer, without any shame. Then, information was more important than sensibilities.

Also read: On paper bags, purity and periods

This is an attitude that we need to bring back into our conversations, but also our attitudes, towards all matters related to sexual and reproductive health. Periods change lives, and they're nothing to be ashamed of.

We, women, are the bringers of new life into the world, and our periods are a part of that process. If you have a daughter who’s of an age where she’s menstruating or about to start, share this information with her.

You can help break the silence surrounding this neglected issue today here.


May 28th marks the Global Menstrual Hygiene Day, which was created to publicly recognise the right of women to hygienically manage their menstruation wherever they are.


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