Menstruation is a globally shared experience among all women – women everywhere intimately understand what it is like to get her first period, and all women share similar symptoms. And yet, menstruation is also a globally stigmatized issue. It is a topic that people are constantly embarrassed to talk about, a topic that is only whispered about behind closed doors. Cultures all over the world have developed harmful, even destructive, ideas and beliefs about menstruation.
As a direct result of the persistent menstrual taboo, there is a critical lack of health education resources available to young women (and men) about the menstrual cycle. It is this lack of knowledge that perpetuates myths that isolate and shame women during their monthly cycles.
While these taboos exist globally, they are especially prominent and relevant in developing countries. In East Africa, menstruation is one of the biggest reasons why adolescent girls miss school. Poor menstrual management is also the leading cause of reproductive tract infections in women globally. Our 2014 study in Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum found that over 75% of girls had little idea what menstruation was before they got their first period – causing them to feel scared, confused and embarrassed.
In Kenya, girls will miss an average of 4 days of school each month – adding up to about 20% of the school year. When girls don’t have access to sanitary pads, they will often choose to leave school early, or stay home altogether.
Let’s Break the Taboo
Follow the links below to learn how you can help shatter the stigma surrounding menstruation.