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A Developing countries’ outlook at Menstruation taboos and Period Poverty - #BreakTheChain

At any given point in time, there are more than 800 million women menstruating daily in the world. Most women menstruate for about 40 years of their lives. From the start of their first period (menarche) up to menopause, girls and women bleed every month, cumulatively accounting to more than 7 years of their life. Despite the vastness of its occurrence, menstruation remains a taboo subject surrounded in secrecy, silence, and shame in all over the world, particularly in the developing countries. The taboo around women’s bodies prevents any conversation concerning the period of menstruation reinforcing gender inequalities. This almost always negatively impacts the self-confidence and the social status of girls, whose life should not be impacted by a completely normal biological process.


According to UNICEF, globally 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation. In developing countries only 27% have adequate handwashing facilities. Not having these facilities makes it very hard for women to manage their menstruation with dignity. Additionally, taboos associated with menstruation run deep in all societies, for example women on their period are ostracized in a lot of the African communities, in Nepal they are relegated to menstrual huts, in India and other south Asian countries their activities, their access to hygiene and basic life amenities like dedicated bathrooms, safe place to rest, access to certain kinds of food, access to school, social interaction etc are deeply restricted. In Uganda, girls miss school during their period to avoid being shamed or teased. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 10 girls misses school during her period. Further, records show 30% of girls in South Africa and 2/3 girls in Uganda do not attend school during their periods. In developing countries, the number of school days missed by girls during periods accounts for over 20% of their total school days per year. This pushes girls behind in school putting them at a high risk of dropouts further increasing gender inequalities. Young girls who do not receive education are entered into child marriages, and experience early pregnancies, malnourishment, and domestic violence. In particularly low-income countries, girls are forced into prostitution, and contract other sex related diseases. A large part of the societal taboos, and stigmas associated to menstruation come from lack of knowledge and information. In Afghanistan and South Asia, 33% of the girls in school had never heard of menstruation prior to experiencing menarche. This number is as high as 49% in Pakistan. In south Asia, 98% of them did not know menstrual blood comes from the uterus. For most girls their only source of information is their mothers, who are themselves scared to talk about menstruation. Normalizing menstruation and busting all taboos surrounding it is an important step toward gender equality. It is not just a women’s problem. Educating and discussing menstruation with boys and girls both in school helps better infrastructure in dealing with menstrual hygiene, foster a healthy atmosphere while uprooting the stigmas associated with it.


A major factor in the lack of menstrual health management is period poverty, specifically the absences of access to low cost sanitary pads and suitable infrastructure. Close to half of the people in developing countries do not have access to clean drinking water, water to wash hands, and designated toilets. Period poverty is a crucial issue in south Asia, Africa’s and even parts of the developed countries. 2 out of 3 schools in rural India, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda lacks proper toilets for girls. Further, many girls and women cannot afford menstrual material. Up to 7 million girls in south Africa cannot afford sanitary napkins. 2 out of 3 girls in Kenya cannot access menstrual products, and only 11% of women in India have adequate access to menstrual hygiene products The high price of menstruation products in addition to the lack of information, gender inequalities and stigmas, alienates a large proportion of women from accessing good management options. In most rural parts of low- and middle-income countries families still use clothing, old rags, and in some cases even sand, ash, wood shavings, newspapers, dried leaves, hay, and plastic. The lack of access to abundant and clean menstrual hygiene products affects the health of women to cause urinary tract and reproductive diseases, dysmenorrhea, and menstrual disorder. Studies in eastern and southern Africa showed that the cost of menstrual products sorely contributes to the perception that girls are economically burdensome.


All this puts into sharp focus the need for creating awareness about menstruation while making cheap menstrual hygiene products available. Multiple initiatives throughout Africa, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in collaborations with local governments and NGOs and UNICEF have attempted to tackle. Some endeavors tackle the lack of information aspect of it, some NGOs have made sanitary napkins available, some have trained women to create their own reusable sanitary pads thus empowering them and creating a employment. Recently south Africa cancelled the 15% value added tax on sanitary napkins, and a few states in the US have declared that sanitary napkins are as essential as toilet paper and should be made available free of cost at every school. Making women independent in their management of mensuration is extremely important for their overall growth and development including the development of the society. If a girl attends just one additional year of high school, their lifetime earnings increase by 20% consequently increasing their countries GDP as well by billions.


As a part of our organization Endorse Hope, we hope to add to these efforts toward spreading information, creating awareness about menstruation and aiding grassroot activities toward improving access of girls and women to low cost and sustainable feminine hygiene via our movement #BreakTheChain. Through our first campaign under #BreakTheChain we wish to raise funds toward the work being currently done by the Great Lakes Peace Center in Uganda. In Uganda, nearly 60% to 69% rural women use old cloths instead of using Washable Sanitary Pads leading to vaginal infection & diseases. Though in urban Uganda the trend has changed in recent years, but in working area alike rural Kasese, poor Accessibility and Social barrier is the root cause behind this. Sanitary Pads are only available in the medical stores or departmental stores generally situated in the largest villages or local markets. Without transportation, it is very difficult to reach the marketplace. On top of that, social issues prevent women and girls from obtaining Washable Sanitary Pads at local pharmacies due to social embarrassment about the topic.


Over 80% of the school going girls still feel unsafe on their way to school and other have had poor academic performance given that most girls at menstrual ages do not have access to sanitary pads due to the high costs yet menstruation is part of the girl child and if not well catered for may ruin future of the girl child.



#BreakTheChain Uganda Project Goal:

To contribute towards girl child school retention through improved menstrual hygiene and sanitation management (Read More)


Objectives:

• Aware women & girls menstrual health hygiene

• Support washable sanitary pad kits

• To provide economic opportunities through sewing the washable sanitary pad kits

• To motivate local government to put menstrual health hygiene in priority


We hope to raise funds through your contributions:


Resources:

· UNICEF’s U-Report – A social messaging tool that allows anyone from any community, anywhere in the world to respond to polls, report issues, support child rights and work as positive agents of change of behalf of the people in their country.

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