I remember when I was in school, our uniforms used to be white and the worst nightmare of every girl in my school would be to get up with a large red stain on their skirts. The fact that it was a coed school added to their ignominy.
Every time a girl got a stain on her skirt, she would start finding ways not just to hide the stain but also the fact that she was undergoing something so natural, yet so stilted. She would staple the stained part of the skirt, use chalk to hide it, or ask a friends to walk behind her while she avoided the gaze of every guy that passed by, as if she had done something wrong.
And it wasn’t that we hadn’t studied about periods, our science books had the chapter that taught both girls and boys about periods, but what they forgot to teach was how it was important to not consider periods as a taboo.
As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, a ‘taboo’ is a social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.
But periods aren’t a custom, nor are they about a particular person, place or thing. Periods are something women all over the world have to face. They are inevitable and it’s impossible to not talk or care about periods.
It’s important to treat this issue with as much importance as we treat gender equality, racism or any other issue in the world. It’s important to make every woman comfortable about asking for a sanitary pad and not worry about the cost of it. It’s unbelievable that women still have to use cloth or paper every month, the discomfort and pain is not something that can be expressed in words.
If we go by facts, 88% of women and girls use unsanitary materials such as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic and safe products and facilities. Shops in villages often do not have sanitary pads for sale, because there is no demand for it, and how will they have a demand when women can’t even afford their products?
These women are more prone to incidents of Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) by 70%. Homespun solutions raise the risk of vaginal infections that can suppress the reproductive tract’s natural defenses.
Around 49.6% of the world’s population is female, and this is about every single woman. We women first need to believe ourselves and understand that periods aren’t our fault, and that they aren’t dirty. We need to talk about periods and accept such talk.
We need to strongly raise our voice for our needs and hygiene, we need to let them know that periods are not a luxury, they are not our choice, and hence it’s not fair to consider sanitary pads as a luxury product. Therefore, making sanitary pads and proper hygiene accessible and affordable for every woman is the right thing to do.