Alright, let’s talk about Periods. If you just went “Haye tobah, this larki is so besharam” this is your cue to leave. You can read this instead. Shabash!
*Phew* So now that the squeamish and the immature have left, let’s get down to business.
Menstruation is like Lord Voldemort of bodily functions; it must not be named at ALL! The general consensus is that talking about periods is slightly cringe-worthy and majorly improper. It’s not something you can talk openly about, and from puberty onwards you’re trained to hide anything period related from people around you. Not just from guys, girls feel the need to whisper even while asking a female friend for a tampon or sanitary napkin. If you’ve ever shopped for sanitary products at departmental stores you’d know how super-fast they brown-bag your purchase. God forbid, people find out that you have a uterus!
It’s interesting that there’s so much embarrassment, shame and stigma surrounding a natural body function that’s experienced by half of the world’s population. Women get oh so scandalized if a tampon or sanitary pad drops out of their purse, as if they’ve brought dishonour to their entire family by exposing a secret that EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT!
It’s high time we understand that menstruation is a natural phenomenon and definitely nothing to be ashamed of! Societal pressure, misogyny and a few archaic traditions have turned it into this international secret which one dare not discuss publicly. So let’s break the silence and build awareness around menstrual hygiene management!
You’re probably thinking, “Hey, it can’t be that bad! We’re in an educated environment and there’s awareness for these things!” Well, sorry to burst your bubble but studies suggest that almost 50% of girls miss school during menstruation, and about 40% of girls don’t have access to protective materials to manage their menses.
That’s because when it comes to menstruation there’s still a major lack of awareness throughout our country. While it’s understandable that because of lack of education in rural areas women might be unaware of what exactly their bodies are going through; old wives tales and myths are also quite prevalent in the urban cities. In fact approximately 26% of the female population worldwide suffers from the taboos that the society has created against MENSTRUATION!
Here are some of the most common and ridiculous myths associated with your period:
- A period should last for exactly one week!
My uterus does not own a calendar. However if it’s extremely irregular please call a doctor.
- Talking to your daughter about periods before she starts will scare her.
If she doesn’t know why there’s a ton of blood coming from south of the border, she’s definitely going to be traumatized for life.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is not a real thing. It’s all in the head!
I suggest you never tell a woman who’s PMSing that it’s all in her head. She will hit you in the head.
- A woman should not bathe during her periods.
Err, Eww? Please bathe and stay hygienic. NEVER compromise on hygiene because an aunty told you to.
- I always have painful periods, nothing can be done about it!
GO TO A DOCTOR AND TAKE A PAIN KILLER, YOU MASOCHIST FREAK! No one deserves to go through the pain of those deadly cramps!
The only way to move away from these myths is by raising the awareness among adolescent girls related to menstrual health and hygiene. Girls often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation and good hygienic practices because their mothers shy away from discussing these important issues with them. It’s important to educate young girls and let them know what to expect once a month so that they can consult a doctor in case of any irregularities, complications or pain. In developing countries like ours, the use of rags and cloths as an alternative to sanitary napkins is a common practice. However, due to lack of awareness these rags are washed and reused without the necessary precautions which leads to a drastic increase in vaginal and urinal infections.
This year, Hilton Pharma took an initiative on Menstrual Hygiene day to spread awareness about menstrual health and start a dialogue regarding this natural phenomenon. The social media campaign used the hashtag #AgahiZaruriHai (which means awareness is necessary) and got a brilliant response from the audience. While some men stood by it and understood that menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of, many reacted with disgust and said “it’s a woman’s masla (problem), why should we know about it?” Culturally, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and women on their periods are considered unclean or disgusting. This is something that needs to stop and by opening a dialogue regarding menstruation, the #AgahiZaruriHai campaign acted as the first step in addressing taboos associated with menstruation.
So what can we do? Stop associating shame with anything related to uteruses, let’s educate ourselves to break this ridiculous stigma regarding periods and finally let’s stop cringing any time someone brings up the word menstruation or periods.
Women bleed once a month, get over it!