Menstruation is a natural and regular occurrence experienced by nearly all women of reproductive age. The ability to manage one’s menstrual health with adequate knowledge, safety, and dignity and without stigma is an essential human right. However, hundreds of millions of girls and women in low-resource settings are not well prepared when menstruation begins. They lack access to information, products, and infrastructure needed to comfortably manage menstruation.
For those of us who do have access to what we need to manage menstruation, it seems that we often take these things for granted. But what if someone doesn’t have these resources within reach? The bottom line is that a lack in an opportunity to practice proper menstrual hygiene is a violation of human rights due to its negative impact on mental and physical health, access to education, and gender equality.
The aspect of this issue that might be the easiest to recognize is the inaccessibility of products like sanitary pads and tampons. In Pakistan, only 20% population has access to sanitary products. This partly due to the financial issue that a lot of people can't afford sanitary products. Even though menstrual cups are reusable but hard to apply or outside of the budget for many people. Even when someone can afford to pay for the reusable materials, finding somewhere to purchase them may be a problem.
Issues of accessibility do not end with menstrual hygiene products. In many countries, schools lack proper sanitation facilities, like bathrooms, which are vital to being able to safely and comfortably replace and dispose of used menstrual products.
Other than that we have the stigma in our society associated with menstruation. Around the world, girls are taught from a young age that having a period is something to hide and to be embarrassed of. Menstruation is frequently viewed as a taboo subject, so many girls are not taught anything about it before their first period. Even after they begin to experience menstruation, they do not have access to much knowledge of why it happens or what good menstrual hygiene management is.
According to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, every individual has “a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” of themselves. It lowers your value in your eyes when you are told that your biological process is a shame. This can cause considerable negative impact on mental health.
Article 26 dictates that everyone has a right to education. Without access to clean menstrual management products or places to change and dispose of used ones, many girls around the world miss school during menstruation to try to keep it hidden. This creates a disparity between the educational and career opportunities of men and women.
Part of the reason why access to menstrual management products is such a difficult issue to deal with is that the majority of people are not comfortable talking about it. Periods have a direct impact on half of the world’s population and an indirect impact on all of the population. Conversations about menstruation might be uncomfortable at first, but they are absolutely necessary. We need to break this taboo.
Many organizations have begun working towards improving menstrual hygienic practice worldwide. They are providing menstrual kits and storage bags in public places and to the homeless women.