As the world marks Menstrual Hygiene Day, aid agency CARE Australia is highlighting the men and boys around the world who are helping end the stigma around periods.
CARE Australia CEO Sally Moyle said the shame, secrecy and costs associated with periods are serious barriers to women and girls fulfilling their potential, and men and boys need to be part of the solution.
“In many of the countries where CARE works, girls drop out of school when they reach puberty and menstruating women are forced to stay home or – in the most extreme cases – are banished to dangerous period huts. It’s vital that all members of society work together to ensure women and girls are no longer held back just because they have their period,” Ms Moyle said.
In the most extreme cases of period stigma, the banishment of menstruating women – which is still practiced in parts of Nepal – has caused deaths of women and children from smoke inhalation and other hazards in unsafe huts.
In Nepal, CARE brings groups of teenage boys together to learn about menstruation – emphasising that it is normal, natural and safe.
Boys like 18-year-old Pashupati, have now taken it upon themselves to educate their peers.
“At first I didn’t know what periods were. After I found out, I first said to myself ‘it’s not my problem’ and I didn’t want to talk about it. It made me shy,” Pashupati said.
“Little by little, thanks to the group, I realised how difficult periods could be and that they are natural.
“The girls suffer from a lot of restrictions while they have their periods. They are not allowed in the kitchen [because they are considered impure] or to eat what they want. It’s a form of violence against them.”
Period stigma, combined with a lack of access to sanitary products and safe toilets with running water, causes 23 million girls to drop out of school each year.
CARE is working with schools in countries including Nepal, Zimbabwe and Vanuatu to build girl-friendly toilets and provide reusable pads so puberty will no longer mean the end of a girl’s education.
“Entire communities, including men and boys, must be involved in fighting inequality and the tackling of period stigma is no exception to this. The communities where CARE works are proof of the positive change that can occur when we open the conversation up to men and boys.”
For full quotes and images of men and boys, or interviews with CARE Australia CEO Sally Moyle, contact Iona Salter on 0412 449 691.
Further resources available:
- Video set in Africa highlighting the impact on girls’ education: This school drop-off doesn’t go how you’d expect