Menstruation: A Taboo Topic in Developing Countries
Do you remember the first time you got your menstrual cycle? The memory doesn’t have to be completely vivid, but you remember what it felt like- don’t you? Presumably, you were given some knowledge, whether in school or at home, about what your menstrual cycle is and what it means your body is doing. Even after a bit of preparation, you probably still weren’t ready and silently felt ashamed of something that you can’t control.
For women and young girls in developing countries, this feeling of shame goes far beyond what you may have felt and they have little to no education about their menstrual cycle. Imagine having absolutely no clue what a menstrual cycle is until the day you get it!
As time goes on, open dialogue about menstrual cycles in the United States have become less taboo and the amount of education has increased for young girls. However, in developing countries, such as: India, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan, Venezuela and Southeast Asian countries menstrual cycles are widely stigmatized and leave women and young girls ostracized from their societies.
According to UNICEF, 49% of young girls in Pakistan know absolutely nothing about their first menstrual cycle, 44% of them are without basic hygiene facilities during their cycles and 28% of them miss school because of their cycles. Missing large amounts of school is a wide commonality amongst young girls in these developing countries, making it nearly impossible for them to receive an education. Specifically, in Nepal, almost 9 out of 10 young girls are forced to leave their classes when they are on their menstrual cycles.
Unfortunately, due to lack of proper education, harmful ideas/beliefs and overall ignorance women and young girls in developed countries are at a disadvantage in their societies from the moment they get their first menstrual cycle. They are restricted from going to school, doing household tasks and even simply interacting with others. For instance, women in Venezuela are forced to sleep in huts for the duration of their cycles!
In these countries, not only is their enough proper knowledge on menstrual cycles, but for the most part the feminine hygiene products that are available for them are not affordable and sometimes inaccessible for women and young girls. Without the ability to obtain the proper feminine hygiene products, it’s been reported that they resort to using rags, mattress stuffing, banana leaves and feathers.
Periods aren’t looked at as a natural biological function of woman but as something to be ashamed of which ostracizes and excludes women in developing countries. Educating each other on the hardships that women across the world face when it comes to their menstrual cycles is important!
As the dialogue surrounding menstrual cycles and our bodies continues to evolve, we must continue to educate ourselves and others. Everyone deserves to have their most precious jewel protected!
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