Sanitary towels are generally part of a woman’s routine every four weeks, and we use them without giving it much thought. It’s just ‘one of those things’ we have to deal with, and we rarely talk about them.
When you look around the world at statistics of women and menstruation, it’s pretty shocking. In Kenya, 1 in 10 15-year-old girls admitted to selling their body for sex in order to buy sanitary products, and in India, 90% of women use mud, grass and cloth as they can’t afford to buy pads. The situation is similar in subsaharan Africa, where it’s thought girls miss out on at least 20% of their education due to their fear of showing stained clothes at school (many parents can’t afford, or refuse to buy, pads for their daughters – it’s thought the start of menstruation is related to girls losing their virginity).
In Nairobi, 80% of girls are unaware of what a period even is before it starts, and just a few weeks ago in Nepal, a girl died of suffocation after being banished to the animal shed for being on her period.
Whilst in the UK pads available to buy in most supermarkets, sanitary products are still the most asked for items at food banks, and it goes without mentioning that up until last March, tampons were still taxed as a “luxury item”.
And yet, I still find myself hiding my sanitary products under other items in my trolley at the supermarket. In the house I share with boys, and would never dream of leaving my box of tampons on the side. It’s part of a wider problem when it comes to menstruation, with endometriosis still being hugely under diagnosed in the UK, and problems with the contraceptive pill causing medical issues which are under researched by the medical community.
I suggest watching this hilarious Water Aid advert about if men had periods to put some perspective on the difference of our experience of menstruation, and men’s hypothetical experience.
Let’s normalise periods.