It’s time for action. Period action!

It’s May 28th, and you know what that means, it’s Menstrual Hygiene Day!

We figured we would take some time to talk openly about menstruation, our perceptions, long lasting taboos, and how to break that cycle – the shame cycle, not our monthly one! A lot has been discussed recently, especially after the release of the Oscar winner documentary “Period. End of Sentence” on Netflix, which depicts the menstrual challenges of Indian women in a rural village outside Delhi. The short film presents the sanitary pad-making machines as a viable solution for their lack of infrastructure and autonomy.

However, the safety of such pads is questionable, since the origin and most probably bleaching of the materials is not discussed in the film. Besides, the stigma of menstruation goes deeper into society and the environmental issues caused by single-use pads should guide us into another direction: reusable menstrual products.

Until today, in rural areas from different parts of the world, people on their periods have been using cloths as a menstrual product, which is not very different from modern period pants or reusable cotton pads. However, such cloths often do not meet the necessary cleanliness requirements or are chemically polluted, e.g. by dying processes. Ancient knowledge has provided us with the best solution to both personal and environmental health and safety, avoiding intimate contact with chemical substances and tons of non-degradable material disposed into the oceans every year. However, shame prevails in many communities when it comes to washing and drying the menstrual cloths openly, in aired and sun-lighted spaces, which increases the chances of developing urogenital infection and bacterial vaginosis.

Our partner in North Macedonia, “Journalists for Human Rights”, has recently started working on eradicating menstrual poverty and they have set up a fund to tackle this issue. In their country, many cannot afford menstrual products, and several report lack of basic sanitary conditions in schools and work places. In India, to celebrate the date and raise awareness, the Boondh group organised an Open Mic event in Delhi, where people shared poetry, stand up, music, and readings. Boondh is doing a tremendous job to promote menstrual health empowerment and reusable menstrual products, such as the menstrual cup. In fact, if you want to buy one of their cups online, you also have the option to buy another one for someone in a low income community.

As Fwilane Banda, a menstrual activist in Zambia, pointed out: menstrual hygiene management “is a subject that is very hard to navigate because there are a lot of myths and misconception surrounding it across cultures”. She is working with entire communities in the quest to tackle period stigma, from the menstruating girls to their male classmates, mothers, teachers and the community’s “period aunties”.

We need to keep identifying where there are gaps in access to healthy periods, whether it means looking into the state of school toilets, access to safe water and period products or overcoming blood stigma. Everyone should have the right to make conscious decisions for their own bodies and for the planet.