Normalising #MenstrualMatters Amid A Pandemic

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A shot of pantyliners taken on Menstrual Hygiene Day to increase awareness of periods during the COVID-19 pandemicA shot of pantyliners taken on Menstrual Hygiene Day to increase awareness of periods during the COVID-19 pandemic

Girls face barriers to receiving an education. Violence, poverty and cultural norms are key reasons but in many countries including Nigeria, girls miss school for a reason that is treated as a taboo, menstruation.

Every day, according to menstrualhygieneday.org, an estimated 300 million people menstruate around the world, and being able to manage menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and with dignity is critical for their health, education, human rights, economic development and overall gender equality.

In some cases, girls drop out of school and even work, entirely because of their periods. “Be careful, she might be on her period!” and other social stigmas associated with periods prevent women from even being able to complain about the lack of adequate infrastructure to care for menstrual health.

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic started, there was an alarming number of women who didn’t have what they needed to manage their menstruation. It has worsened with the lockdown in most cities as the restricted ability to move around makes it even harder to get those period essentials.

“Many subsidised supply schemes, e.g. free distribution of menstrual products in schools, have been suspended,” a statement on menstrualhygieneday.org read.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 forces many women and girls to prioritise other basic needs over safe menstrual products. Disrupted supply chains drive prices up, making menstrual products unaffordable for even more women and girls”, the statement added.

On the issue of persisting period stigma and taboos, the website stated, “Lockdowns intensify the impact of household-level taboos and stigmas on women and girls and make it more difficult to manage menstruation, without shame and discomfort in often confined spaces.”

As we know, bodily functions don’t stop even for pandemics which makes it critical to include menstrual considerations in the COVID-19 emergency response interventions. The interventions include tackling period stigma and providing access to information about periods on radio, local TV, and free platforms like Facebook.Also, important to add in these interventions is access to menstrual products and safe water, soap and period-friendly sanitation facilities at home and in health centres, so women and girls can manage their periods safely, hygienically and with dignity – wherever they are. This includes designating menstrual products as essential commodities to minimise barriers to manufacturing and supply.

Menstrual Hygiene Day takes place every 28 May. This date was selected because the average duration of a menstrual cycle is 28 days and, on average, women and girls have their periods for five days each month. Hence 28-5, or 28 May.

With the knowledge that periods do not stop for pandemics, in the wake of the novel coronavirus crisis, the hashtag #PeriodsInPandemics, chosen for this year, aims to buttress how the current pandemic is further pushing the menstruation-related challenges to the back burner as many adults and teenagers face them around the world.

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