A couple of months ago, my partner and I were invited to serve in the Peace Corps. Super exciting! While we are still waiting for medical clearance (fingers crossed), this possible adventure got me thinking a lot about periods. Where we were going, there is very little electricity, and no running water, not to mention strict views on gender. What’s more, the more I read about being a woman in a developing country, the more I learned that traditional pads and tampons simply aren’t available due to lacking resources and heavy menstruation taboos. What is a Peace Corps volunteer-hopeful gotta do?
Turns out, there are a couple of ways female volunteers deal with periods out in the field–the Peace Corps supplies all women with menstrual cups. However, I became more interested in how locals deal with menstruation, and of other ways to period both back home and in the developing world. This Menstruation Series will be divided into four parts, each discussing a different period product that is both more environmentally friendly, developing nation friendly, and tested out my yours truly. For part I, I want to share a couple of things I have learned about what it is like to menstruate for girls and women living in the developing world.
Girls miss school.
Yep, you read that right. Millions of girls miss school because of their period–and eventually drop out. This is a problem both where I might be going with the Peace Corps, and worldwide. The infographic above from Her Turn is a great visual of the problems present. Many girls report lacking resources to deal with periods. In rural areas, there are usually no bathrooms, garbage disposal, or running water in schools. Many girls end up using old rags and clothing in place of a pad to get through the few days of their period.
Girls who stay in school longer grow their country’s GDP, have more economic opportunity, less children, marry later in life, and if they do have a family, their kids are more likely to live past the age of 5. Education lifts up everyone, and girls make up half the world. Let’s not keep them back.
There are tons of organizations trying to alleviate the problem sustainably, such as AFRIpads–check them out here.
Another big factor affecting girls and women who are menstruating are the heavy taboos placed upon it. Because there is little education or understanding of female health and hygiene, many people view periods as unnatural and unclean. Sometimes women and girls have to live apart from their communities during their period because of this. And, if a girl bleeds through her clothes at school, she faces extreme embarrassment from community members. If you thought it was hard talking about periods in the United States, think again.
There are programs like WASH by UNICEF that are trying to change this, at least in terms of hygiene for not just girls, but all children. There is also the Thinx Foundation, whose goal is to educate and empower girls around the world, particularly regarding periods.
That’s all for this week! I encourage you to do further research, because this is an issue we can fight and put an end to. I hope that I am able to dedicate my life to service around the world, and if not that, we can work together to improve the lives of those in our own communities.
Until next time,