“Periods”. “Aunt Flo”. “That Time of the Month”. “On the Rag”.
These are just some of the common words used to describe menstruation. For those of us with access to the right resources having your “period” is merely a monthly event. We may complain about it, discuss our cycles with our friends, or simply pay no attention to it at all.
However, there are women just like us, in other parts of the world, who do not have access to resources to assist them during this important time. For these women, it is about more than not having the right aid. It can be a barrier to education, health and for many, even their safety.
The figures are shocking, with 43% of women in India not having access to sanitary pads and 67% of female adolescents leaving school when they hit puberty. A UNESCO report (Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review 2018) estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses’ school during their menstrual cycle. In rural, Nepal and India many families practice chaupadi, a tradition where during the time of menstruation, women are forced to live away from their families in a shed, as they are considered unclean. Millions of women live in these harsh conditions.
Women in rural areas have even less access to sanitary pads and this results in them missing school at a very young age. This absenteeism results in long term consequences, not just to these girls, but also to the community and the country’s economy. Many girls who do not stay in school, end up being at risk of sexual assault when they are left at home alone while menstruating as their parents must still go to work. They also tend to get married at an earlier age, have babies earlier, and may suffer significant reproductive and gynaecological consequences (including an increased risk of foetal, infant and maternal morbidity and mortality) as a result of this.
The lack of secondary education also reduces the amount of people in the workforce, and more specifically limits the number of women entering it which can have significant impacts on women’s access to income and the economy of their community around them.
Around the world, not for profit groups have attempted to help relieve this issue in a sustainable and effective way. A popular and successful option is reusable cloth sanitary pads. These reusable sanitary pads are made from wicking materials and can be washed and dried to reuse for the next cycle. This alternative also helps to reduce the plastic waste that is frequently produced through disposable sanitary pads.
Distributing reusable cloth sanitary pads to rural areas can also help achieve part of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. More specifically, SDG 4 – quality education, SDG 5 – gender equality and SDG 6- water and sanitation.
Other initiatives include the WASH United’s Menstrual Hygiene Management Day, held on May 28 each year. They hold over 300 events globally to educate the public about this issue.
Projects where we can help to further social and economic empowerment and growth, along with changing people’s futures, in turn creates a better world for us all.
Development Together’s Business placements in Uganda is currently working with non-for-profit organisations in Busia to deliver more sustainable hygiene and health solutions for local women. Learn more about how you can get involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.