May 28 was World Menstrual Hygiene Day. This is a day to learn about how women and girls around the world manage their periods. It also aims to break taboos and raise awareness of good menstrual management.
Did you realise that around the world millions of girls are prevented from attending school and million more women are unable to work every month? This damages their education and negatively impacts their livelihoods.
Female absence from education and employment during their periods is not just the result of deep-rooted cultural beliefs. Poor local water, sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) also contribute greatly to the problem.
A 2012 UNICEF report on WASH in schools suggests that 30 per cent of menstruating girls in Nepal avoided classes. Communities in Nepal still practice the ancient – albeit illegal – Hindu custom of chaupadi (menstrual exclusion) that sees women and girls banished from their family homes while they have their periods. When women and girls are banished from their homes, they are also being served food (boiled rice only) behind a toilet.
Currently there is little research on the situation in workplaces, but with menstrual-aged girls and women representing 40 per cent of the global labour market, it is easy to imagine the economic impact that female workers experience monthly due to work absences. A WaterAid research project found that in Bangladesh, 60 per cent of textile factory workers use rags from the floor as menstrual cloths. That has resulted in infections which caused 73 per cent of female workers to miss about six days of work a month. Something to think about next time you put on your $5 t-shirt made in Bangladesh!
I don’t like having my period – it’s a pain – but my period didn’t stop me from attending school growing up (unless I wanted a day off) and it definitely doesn’t stop me from earning an income that contributes significantly to my family’s household income.
At Asian Aid, we are doing something to address this situation. One of the key outcomes of our Child Focused Development Program is survival. We are working with partners to start addressing this issue through direct advocacy campaigns in Nepal and through school WASH projects in India and in Bangladesh. As we engage women and girls more directly in programming, your support will ensure they can experience conditions that allow them to attend school and to go to work even during menstruation.
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