Talking About Periods

global-washIn a previous article, I discussed the game Tampon Run and its empowering message to de-stigmatize the topic of menstruation. In recent news, more organizations have been working hard to contribute to this cause.

Take Elynn Walters, for example. Elynn Walters is an activist focused on improving hygiene and sanitation in low-income countries. She works with WASH advocates. WASH Advocates is defined as a “non-profit, nonpartisan initiative dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge.” Elynn Walters works to address the problem regarding girls and their periods. In underdeveloped and developing countries, many girls encounter many menstruation difficulties, leading to bigger, more detrimental results. Many girls do not have access to private facilities or running water and are unable to afford or find menstrual products. In addition to cultural stigma, this issue results in many young girls leaving school and disappearing from the academic world altogether.

With activists like Elynn and organizations like WASH Advocates, there is a bigger push in changing this phenomenon, especially with the help of growing research. Marni Sommer, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, was one of the first researchers to begin investigating the impact of menstruation in girls from developing countries. She noticed that many girls were disappearing from school during the ages of puberty, contributing to the gender gap between males and females in lower-income regions. The most obvious theory was that puberty meant the start of menstruation. Schools in under-developed and developing countries did not have the facilities to help girls deal with their periods. Lack of running water meant lack of toilets. Also, during this time, advocacy groups also focused on one area of activism: water and sanitation, education, or global health, whereas the issue of menstrual hygiene requires all three. Water and sanitation specialists were primarily male, resulting in a lack of simple misunderstanding when it came to constructing facilities. Global health advocates focused on problems that were actually killing girls due to limited funding. Education and research helped bridge the gap by linking hygiene to all three areas of activism.

There are many efforts to try and combat the issue of menstruation in under-developed and developing countries. In addition to addressing water and sanitation concerns, new innovative menstrual sanitation products are being produced as a means to help provide girls accessibility to feminine products. And most importantly, simply talking about the issue has helped bring about change. By reducing the stigma of menstruation and learning to accept that menstruation is a natural part of being a woman has helped bring necessary changes in reforming how we think about menstruation and menstrual hygiene.

WASH Advocates

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Grace Kim

Grace Kim is currently a student at Arizona State University studying Biology with a concentration in Biology and Society. She is primarily interested in women’s health and hopes to pursue a career in science policy and/or science communications after graduate school. She enjoys learning about history, astronomy, and microbiology, and besides writing, she likes to bake, sew, and read in her spare time.