Periodic taboos: Call for educating girls about menstruation

Published: May 29, 2015
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Absenteeism during periods hindering girls’ education.

Absenteeism during periods hindering girls’ education.

Speakers on Thursday called for raising awareness about the importance of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for women and adolescent girls.

They were speaking at an event organised by WaterAid Pakistan to mark the Menstrual Hygiene Day, said a press release.

“Over 42 million girls in Pakistan are in the age bracket of 10-19 years. Most of them go through a shock at their menarche because they have not been educated about it,” they said.

The day observed on May 28 across the world aims at creating awareness to break taboos and myths around menstruation and to encourage women to overcome their hesitation about menses.

This year’s theme is “let’s end the hesitation around menstruation”.

The speakers underlined the need for breaking the taboos so that we can discuss this natural bodily function, which has impacts beyond a woman’s reproductive health. “It is of vital importance to her dignity,” said WaterAid Country Representative Siddiq Ahmed Khan.

“Development of strategies and linking the issue with health and educational sector is extremely important. It shows that the government is committed to making sure that MHM materials are accessible and affordable,” the statement said.

“Continuous support by the government, civil society organisations, development partners, donor agencies and the media will help in making this integral aspect a part of education and health programmes,” said UNICEF Pakistan Representative Angela Kearney.

“In most places, girls do not get adequate and affordable sanitary protection — both commercially-produced and homemade — enabling them to continue attending school while having their menstrual cycles. In Pakistan, sanitary pads are sold for Rs200 and washable and low-cost pads are not available widely.

“Many of the school children cannot afford to buy commercial pads. Instead, the vast majority of women and girls in Pakistan use rags from old cloths which will have potential health risks,” the statement read.

It said one of the less documented obstacles that hinder girls’ education in developing countries is absenteeism during menstruation. “Studies have shown that marginalised girls can miss up to four consecutive days of school every four weeks due to their periods, meaning that they miss 10-20 per cent of school time, seriously impacting on their achievement at school. This is due to poor menstrual hygiene management caused by both lack of information, privacy and sanitary pads,” it said.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2015.

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