SOCIETY’S ROLE IN MENSTRUAL HEALTH AND MENSTRUAL HYGIENE
I borrowed a definition from Wikipedia. According to it, menstrual health and hygiene refers to access to menstrual hygiene products to collect the flow of blood during menstruation, privacy to change the materials, and access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials.
28th May has been identified as the Menstrual Hygiene Day across the globe since 2014. As we celebrate it this year, my concern is basically what role each one of us can play in this regard. Across the globe, several communities still believe in various stereotypes attached to menstrual health. This is in fact sad and totally disheartening because at the end of the day, such stereotypes are the reasons as to why the female gender is still in a dire state when it comes to menstrual health.
During menstruation, so much goes on in someone’s life. This includes painful crumps, loss of appetite, mood swings, sometimes a fever and general body weakness. This could be something slight to some of us. However, each one of us experiences pain differently. It’s during this time that sanitary towels, menstrual cups, tampons, etc. are important, not forgetting access to clean water and a balanced diet among other things. Because most people are unable to access sanitary towels, the only alternative the majority are left with is tissue, cotton, leaves, mud, dung or even unwillingly going to extremes like selling their bodies in exchange for sanitary towels. In a pandemic like this while we’re all scared about what could happen next, menstruation did not stop for anything or anyone which means the difficult conditions haven’t ceased but rather they worsened for many and even after the pandemic, the story will continue. But how fair is that?
The natural process of menstruation comes as a big problem to women and girls in many parts across the globe contributing to health risks and disempowerment among others. Because it has been deemed a ‘filthy private act’, the social damage is hidden and can only be heard or understood when one shares with you their experience.
Amidst such times, each one of us has a role they can play in this.
As the government, or ruling bodies, there’s possibility to provide free sanitary towels to the communities at large. This as a project is good enough to reduce school dropouts, absenteeism in institutions, spread of HIV/AIDS , STIs among others. Also, the ruling bodies have the capacity to provide access to clean water, sanitary facilities among other things.
As a society, we have the power to prioritize the most urgent needs like providing sanitary towels to the less privileged people in our community. Furthermore, we can offer sensitization to the community so as to engage everyone in the struggle to end period poverty.
To institutions of learning, we have the ability to construct incinerators in schools to provide easy disposal of menstrual health products after use. Also, we can sensitize, and avail more sanitary towels to students who can’t afford them.
To us the male domination, we need to normalize periods, we need to learn more about periods, and know how to help in such situations. Bullying and criticizing those who have stained is not something we should be proud of. Instead, in such times, we must be willing to lend a hand.
As the world, there’s something we can do to prevent period poverty among other things. In the end, we’re all working and preaching a better society which we can only achieve if we leave no one behind.
Happy MH Day.
BY NABBOSA NORAH