Poor menstrual hygiene management can be fatal. In Nepal, the “chaupadi” tradition of Hindus in western Nepal lead to a teenager named Tulasi Shahi being forced to stay in her uncle’s cowshed for days.
Why? Because she was on her period. A snake bit her while she was in the shed, and she died hours later.
Roshani Tiruwa, a 15-year-old girl, died a few months earlier from the “chaupadi” practice when she lit a fire in her hut and suffered from smoke inhalation. 50 percent of women in western Nepal suffer from this tradition.
Period-related shaming is not limited to Nepal. One out of three girls in southeast Asia had no knowledge of menstruation before getting their first period. 48 percent of girls in Iran and 10 percent of girls in India believe that getting your period is some kind of disease.
On top of harmful cultural influences, access to affordable hygienic materials is often very limited. Sometimes women attempt to use mud, leaves, dung or animal skins to control the bleeding.
For these women, periods are more than just embarrassing; they are an economic obstacle. The lack of information and products available to manage menstruation cause girls to miss significant amounts of school, and women to miss out on economic opportunities.
On the bright side, the solution to this problem already exists: pads, tampons, and knowledge that periods are natural and necessary for the survival of the human population. Days for Girls is an organization working to improve the lives of women in Uganda, Ghana and Nepal by improving their experience with menstruation.
The organization provides health education and affordable hygiene kits, which last up to three years. In addition, days for girls provides microbusiness and sewing training to empower women to improve their economic situation as well as their period.
Christine, a woman in Nairobi, attended a two-week Days for Girls training program, which taught her how to sew, spread health information and make and sell menstrual hygiene kits in her community. Christine now owns three hygiene kit enterprises and believes the program changed her life.
The world is beginning to understand that menstrual hygiene management is an important international problem. More organizations have been formed to tackle the issue, and major development groups are beginning to recognize the gravity of this problem.
Many women in the world are shamed and hindered from achievement because of a normal, crucial body function. The movement to promote menstrual hygiene management is an important step towards gender equality worldwide.
– Kristen Nixon