Speaking about the menses in conservative communities is one of the greatest taboos. The case is not better in developed countries. For decades, periods and women's gynaecological health problems were a taboo with a lot of women suffering from myths in feminine medicine, starting from giving birth, abortion and all the health problems related to menses.
A wrong stigmatic idea related to the period in women's lives, what was common, is the feeling of shame and embarrassment. In some cultures, the situation is getting even worse.
In Nepal, menstruation is a synonym for impurity. Women are forbidden to stay in the house during their menstruation in some rural areas. They are expelled from the house and spend their periods in sheds (called chhaupadi).
Under brutal conditions, women spend their period time in sheds, which makes them prone to different diseases, and in poor hygienic conditions, women could face mortality, according to BMC women's health.
In some MENA regions, young girls could face death if they have an imperforate hymen. Most of the parents reject the surgical solutions and leave their daughters to suffer from serious hazardous symptoms as the menstrual blood keeps trapping in the vagina, according to Health Line magazine. Some symptom include:
- Lack of a menstrual cycle despite having other signs of sexual maturity, such as developing breasts and pubic hair.
- Abdominal or pelvic pain often comes and goes each month.
- Back pain.
- Painful urination or no urination at all. This can occur when collective blood presses against the urethra. The urethra is a tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body.
- Bowel problems, such as constipation.
- Some women may also have a painful abdominal mass.
As the hymen in middle eastern culture is related to virginity, a lot of people prefer leaving their daughters to suffer instead of surgical treatment.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty is the shortage of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene capabilities, waste management, or a mix of these. It impacts an estimated 500 million people worldwide.
This definition is based on a study published in 2021 by BMC.
Period poverty is a forced disability in women's daily life. This lack of menstrual products blocks women from going to work, school, universities, and living their day normally, which in order causes psychological disturbances based on the feeling of shame, stigma and the trauma that speaking about it causes. All of this, besides the physical pain and the hormonal change, makes a great burden on women's shoulders.
Several African countries — involving Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria — lack access to safe, neat, and private spaces for menstrual hygiene, according to a 2019 report.
Access to sanitary pads varies among countries. Due to inadequacy of access, the next percentage of menstruators in each country do not use sanitary pads:
- Kinshasa: 17%
- Kenya: 14%
- Ghana: 10%
- Ethiopia: 41%
- Nigeria: 37%
- Uganda: 36%
Period poverty consists of a global crisis with a lack of research and statistics, It's a challenge to humanity to start taking steps to vanquish it, try spreading awareness about sanitation, provide free or affordable pads for all women, and pay more attention to women menstrual health.
There are initiatives for cities to take the first step and negotiate law drafts about making menstrual products free and there are countries that have started to give women free menstrual sites like:
- New Zealand
- New South Wales
- Victoria (Australia)
- New York
- New Hampshire
- Virginia (United States)
- Île-de-France, France
- South Africa
- Seoul, South Korea
Period poverty is considered a critical issue in every neglected community. It is not a luxurious gadget that women ask for. It is one of the basic human needs. We hope by the coming 2030, more countries will work on providing sustainable safe affordable menstrual products for every woman.
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