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Five reasons we need to talk about periods

Five reasons we need to talk about periods

Girls learning about menstrual hygiene

Periods can make us feel uncomfortable, but talking about them shouldn’t. Here are five reasons why we need to drop the shame and start talking more openly and honestly about menstruation.

Right now there’s a vast choice of emojis depicting different emotions and situations, yet there isn’t a single emoji to represent periods. But you can help change that - get involved and pick your favourite today!

Getting your first period can be scary

In many countries there’s still a lack of understanding about what’s happening to a girl’s body when she starts menstruating. Lack of menstrual education and the stigma attached to periods mean girls don’t feel comfortable talking about it with their parents, peers, or teachers. Having a first period can be an incredibly scary and daunting experience if you haven’t been told what is happening. One that would be made much easier if girls had the support and advice they needed to confidently manage this new transition in their life.

Myths around menstruation hold girls back

What should be a perfectly normal experience every month can be incredibly alienating for women and girls around the world. In communities in India, women and girls are not allowed to enter the kitchen or cook food during their period as some people believe it will cause food to go bad or rot. Can you imagine being shunned and banished from the kitchen just for having a period?

We conducted research with adolescent girls in Bangladesh and also found that girls faced widespread shame, silence and physical restrictions during menstruation. Education plays a vital role in eliminating the myths and stigma associate with menstruation.

Periods are linked to school drops outs

Having a period can feel like a chore, but imagine if it prevented you from going about your daily life and even missing out on an education. Well this is the reality for many girls in Africa – with one in ten girls missing school when they are on their periods.

Poor toilet and sanitation facilities at schools and lack of access to sanitary products mean girls do not have the confidence to go to and manage their periods at school. In India, only 12 per cent of girls and women have access to sanitary products. The rest rely on materials such as old, dirty rags, newspaper, leaves, dirt, and other unhygienic materials that often lead to infection and embarrassment because of leaks and odour.

Missing school also increases the likelihood of reduced performance and school dropouts altogether. In Uganda, it was found that of the 18 per cent of girls that left school before graduating, 46 per cent of them didn’t go to school because the schools didn’t have proper water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. And now we’re hearing that ‘Period Poverty’, not having enough money for sanitary products, may also be affecting girls in the UK.

Menstruation is a big part of our lives

Did you know the average woman menstruates for 3,000 days during her lifetime? That’s the equivalent of 8.2 years! There’s no denying that menstruation is a big part of our lives so it’s essential that we make that ‘time of the month’ a more manageable, open, and shame-free process.

But we’re shying away from talking about our periods

Even though at least 800 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating right now, we’re still not talking about it. Our recent poll in the UK found that 64 per cent of women feel uncomfortable discussing their period with their male friends. And at a time in our lives when it’s more important than ever to get the advice and support needed to manage our periods, it was found that in the UK, 44 per cent of women said they felt uncomfortable discussing their period with female teachers when at school, and 75 per cent would feel uncomfortable discussing with male teachers.

How we can help

We’re working to tackle the stigma and taboos, and hygiene issues around periods in different ways. We work with adolescent boys to raise awareness about the challenges and struggles girls face, and we’re constructing girl-friendly toilet facilities in schools and communities. But we also want to make a lasting change to the way we talk about periods, both in the UK and around the world.

Our research shows that nearly half of 18-34 year old women would use a period emoji, and would find it easier to talk to their partner about being on their period as a result. So we think it’s time to make one!

That's why we designed five period emojis and asked you to vote for your favourite, so we could submit the winning design and ask for it to be added to keyboards worldwide. Find out more about the campaign here >

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