Around the world, girls and women face all kinds discrimination around menstruation myths. From being forbidden to drink milk or touch plants to getting banished from their homes for the duration of their monthly periods – putting their education and their safety at risk.
And it’s not just stigma and taboo that make life a struggle every month.
That’s why, on May 28, we mark Menstrual Hygiene Day by challenging the myths surrounding menstruation:
Three things no girl should grow up thinking about her period:
1. Having your period means you're dirty
Once a month, everything changes for 16-year-old Radha in Nepal. She has to leave the family home and spend her nights in a tiny shed, where she's at risk of rape and animal attacks.
For a week, she eats only boiled rice, thrown to her from a safe distance by her sister – who she mustn't touch in case she pollutes her. Why? Because Radha has her period.
2. Girls don't need their own toilets during their period
Lydia's favourite subject is maths. But since she got her period, she doesn't go to her school in Uganda as much as she used to – because there are just four toilets for more than 2,000 students.
"We are sharing the toilets and we fear when we go that the boys will be in there,” says Lydia, 16. "Some toilets don’t have doors. They don’t have water to flush or to wash with. So we don’t go to school when we have our periods."
3. You don't have to use anything special during your period
Sarita, 25 works in a garment factory in Bangladesh. She didn't have access to hygienic products during her period, so she did what all the other female workers did: used scraps of material from the factory floor.
"I was in pain a lot," she says. "But we didn't know about reproductive health, even though we are women."
But there is one thing she should know:
Talking about periods means the chance of a better future
In Madina's school in Uganda, getting your period is no longer a taboo subject. As a matron, Madina looks after 58 girls, and makes sure they have all the help and support they need as their bodies change.
"Poor communication often leads to low self-esteem among girls experiencing menstruation and can result in poor performance in class or missing coming to school," she explains. And the best way to prevent this? "I make sure that I talk to girls about menstruation."
But with your help, we can change the story. Around the world, we're supporting girls and women to care for themselves properly during their periods.
From building private, gender-separate toilets and installing taps in schools, to creating hygiene clubs where girls learn to sew washable, reusable sanitary towels, we're helping communities to break the silence on menstrual health.