World Menstrual Hygiene Day: Breaking the “culture of silence” around menstruation

Posted on May 23, 2019

As we approach World Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May, it is important for us as individuals and as a community to shed light on the challenges women and girls face regarding their limited access to adequate menstruation products and the lack of knowledge surrounding good menstrual practice, which limits them in reaching their full potential. The need is greater when you consider the level of hygiene the body needs during the process. Sanitary pads have to be changed on a regular basis, and that has serious financial implications.

The “culture of silence” and persisting taboos surrounding menstruation, coupled with lack of education, limited access to hygienic menstrual products, and poor sanitation infrastructure, results in poor menstrual hygiene practices. These practices are barriers that undermine educational opportunities, health, and the overall social status of women and girls globally.

A recent study conducted by lobby group Equal Education indicated that 1 in 3 girls from lower-income schools in Gauteng are absent from school for three to four days every month, due to a lack of access to sanitary towels. The group further states that about 88% of the young girls included in their study reported that they do not have access to sanitary towels.

Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day is an annual awareness day that aims to create a platform which eliminates silence and fosters awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to achieve their full potential.

MHM has emerged as a global health issue, given its importance to health, well-being, human rights and the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals related to women and girls.

If you wish to learn more, or contribute toward these goals, there are Student Societies and Student Organisations that run initiatives focused on menstrual hygiene:

Pledge a Pad is a registered UP society that collects sanitary pads for women and girls living in underprivileged areas. The society then distributes the sanitary pads at the University and within schools and orphanages around Pretoria. Members of the organisation also educate young women about feminine hygiene.

Tuks RAG (Reach Out and Give) is a student-driven charity organisation dedicated towards developing students through their active participation in fundraising and community service initiatives. Drives and fundraising for menstruation products form a part of their long- and short-term outreach projects, which they undertake throughout the year.

Ubuntu Box runs a sanitary pad drive, and they intend putting dispensers in bathrooms. The dispensers can also be used for depositing sanitary pad donations.

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