Why Does Menstrual Hygiene Matter?
Menstruation is a normal biological process which affects people regularly and is a key sign of reproductive health, yet a lack of education and access persists. Menstruation is a shared experience between a large segment of the world’s population, but it remains a stigmatized topic that influences the socio-economic lives of many.
In various cultures, this stigma presents itself in the language used to talk about menstruation. For example, English-language euphemisms include “Aunt Flo,” “time of the month,” “crimson wave,” “female issues,” “nature’s mess,” and many other phrases. The very language surrounding this biological process shapes menstruation as shameful, uncomfortable, humiliating, and negative. This stigma extends globally where different cultures and societies develop various beliefs about menstruation that contributes to a lack of sexual- and reproductive- health education as well as resources. The limited access to information about menstruation whether in the home, at school, or within communities results in people having a lack of knowledge as to what is happening in their own bodies when they menstruate and what to do when they have their menstrual cycle.
Globally, people who menstruate experience shame from having their cycles. Many students miss classes or drop out of school due to menstruation while working adults may miss productive work days. These issues surrounding menstruation undermines the rights and health of those who menstruate and further ostracizes them from self-determination. In addition, some may struggle with managing their menstrual cycles safely because socio-economic factors limit their capacity. Access to affordable and hygienic sanitary materials along with disposal options and safe and private toilets concern many who menstruate.
Menstrual-hygiene management essentially seeks to educate and ensure that those currently cycling can manage their menstruation in a healthy manner and enables full participation in school, work, and daily life activities so that they may reach their full potential. Furthermore, improving sexual- and reproductive- health education aids in empowering and ending the stigma around menstruation and boosting self-esteem, self-confidence, and knowledge. In addition, education should also extend to those who do not experience menstrual cycles in order to help correct misconceptions and break social and cultural beliefs about these biological processes.
Providing expanded resources and improving the accessibility of sanitary items is another key component of menstrual- hygiene management. Without access to affordable menstrual products or reliable and hygienic solutions, many are not able to continue their schooling or work. Understanding and having information about reproductive health along with accessibility to menstrual resources is critical for those who menstruate to obtain control over their lives and enabling full participation in their daily lives.
Menstrual hygiene highlights this oppression due to a physiological process, and emphasizes how those who experience it have the right to knowledge, self-determination, and the ability to fully and equally participate in society. For this reason, menstrual hygiene is a crucial aspect of education, health, and human rights.