Rethinking periods as a fundamental human right – by Martina Popadakova

We may wonder, what is the issue with a period? Most certainly, either as a man or woman of 21st century coming from any developed country, our adolescent school times were quite similar- hormones burst all around, body and mind transform to adult one, boys turn masculine and girls get their first periods. We all went through some challenging times in relation to the family, friends or teachers, but most importantly, the puberty did not stop the majority of us from attending the school. Especially, girls, we have our cramps and swinging moods, but it was not an excuse to drop out of the school during these messy days. Basic menstrual products, such as tampons and pads are provided by our mothers, family or friends at the very beginnings. Then coming to school, where clean toilets and privacy are secured, so that everybody can take care of their business whenever is needed to. Such a banal thing. Sadly, not every girl and woman has access to the same support and resources.


Period… Unsaid. Unacknowledged. Unknown.

Despite the fact that 800 million girls and women worldwide menstruate every day, yet menstruation remains obscured in silence and taboos. This lack of information perpetuates the stigma that´s harming women´s health and education. A recent International Women´s Health Coalition and Clue app survey of 90.000 women from 190 countries found that in some countries, close to half of the respondents felt they did not have sufficient education or information about starting their period. Survey highlights the countries with the highest percentage of respondents who felt they have received adequate education on starting their period: Finland (94%), Denmark (93%), and Japan (92%). In the contrary, countries where participants felt insufficiently informed in this respect: India (61%), Ukraine (41%), Russia (25%).


The survey further revealed, that there are commonly-used slang terms, such as “Aunt Flo”, “Bloody Mary” or “Lady time”. We have over 5,000 euphemisms for the word “period”, but we still can´t talk about it openly? Menstruation continues to prevent girls and women´s participation in school, work and social events. According to this survey, almost a quarter of women participants also said, that they have missed “school, work or a social activity” because they were menstruating. This is in accordance with trends highlighting, that period is a significant barrier to girls education globally. A period should not be an obstacle to education and participation!

Why so many girls are missing the school during their period

Several studies have described how something as simple as a lack of access to safe, private and clean bathrooms detracts from schoolgirls´ enjoyment and quality of learning. Lack of bathrooms with clean water and soap further exacerbates the discomfort and makes it difficult to stay hygienic and retain a sense of dignity.

I end up using rags,” said Nyanjuma Galoth.

Source: UNFPA South Sudan/ Juma Delu

“My periods are a nightmare” 20 years old Nyanjuma Galoth told to UNFPA at a civilian protection camp in South Sudan. She said, it is a source of stress “The days I am lucky, I get a few sanitary pads from my friends, while other days, I end up using rags to absorb the blood flow.” She said “ it is like a terrible sickness”, and she is not alone. Too many girls skip school because of a lack of sanitary products. Often, the cost of sanitary products is simply too high, forcing them to stay home to tend their bleeding. The Guardian has reported, in some countries, like Malawi, sanitary pads can even cost the equivalent of an entire day´s salary. In Kenya for example, two-thirds of girls and women can´t afford sanitary pads. In Somaliland, girls and women generally use cloth without underwear to absorb their menstruation.