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Putting an end to period stigma and taboo

Putting an end to period stigma and taboo

The blood drop emoji is appearing on phones and keyboards everywhere. This is why it matters.

We had amazing news this week, when we found out the blood drop emoji is starting to appear on phones everywhere.

It comes two years after we first began campaigning for a period emoji and saw our original design – our amazing period pants – fail to get approval.

But why does a period emoji matter? It’s part of a much bigger picture, of ending the shame and stigma that girls, women and other menstruators around the world face every month when they get their period.

And it’s just one of the ways Plan International has been working to make sure girls and women everywhere have the tools and resources they need to talk openly about their periods, and to manage their cycle every month.

The SaniMart, Bangladesh

Most women in our village are not comfortable buying sanitary pads. The salespeople are mostly male, so women feel very embarrassed.

Lucky, Bangladesh
Lucky, left, at her Sanimart in Bangladesh
Lucky, left, at her Sanimart in Bangladesh

Meet Lucky. She runs a SaniMart in Bangladesh – a small shop which, as well as stocking essential items like soap, toothpaste and washing powder, also sells sanitary pads.

In Lucky’s village, periods are still a taboo subject. Before she started the SaniMart, many girls and women couldn’t afford sanitary products, and those that could felt too embarrassed to buy them in the village, because the shopkeepers were mainly men.

The situation was also having an impact on girls’ education. Every month, many were taking time off school because they didn’t have access to sanitary products, and their schools lacked the proper facilities to help girls manage their periods.

Today, Lucky’s shop is providing a solution. Through Plan International, she was able to access the materials she needed to set up the SaniMart.

Now, as well as providing affordable, accessible sanitary products to local girls and women, she has her own income – and is giving girls the chance to work in the shop too, empowering them financially and inspiring them to continue their education.

Be Girl, Colombia

Menstruation is a real problem for many girls in the world because of the high cost of sanitary towels.

Diana Sierra, co-founder of Be Girl
Girls in Cartagena
Girls attend one of our workshops in Cartagena

Around the world, girls are missing up to a week of school every month when they have their period, because they don’t have access to the sanitary products they need.

It puts them at increased risk of dropping out of school, reducing their future employment opportunities and leaving them vulnerable to child marriage and early pregnancy.

In Colombia, we’re working with social enterprise Be Girl to break the taboo surrounding periods, and to make sure girls and young women have access to the products they need to manage their cycle.

In Cartegena, we’ve run a series of workshops, reaching more than 3,600 girls, providing information about their periods and discussing the issues they face every month.

We also provided each girl with a menstrual tracker, so they can learn about and monitor their periods, and a pair of pants with a mesh pocket that can be filled with a reusable absorbent liner – an environmentally friendly solution that allows girls to manage their periods for free.

We’re also working with boys and young men, in recognition of the vital role they can play in ending the stigma surrounding periods and the discrimination girls and women face.

The health club, Uganda

Teachers must talk about menstruation, so we know what it is.

Anna Hope, Uganda
Anna Hope and her friend Everline laugh together at school in Uganda
Anna Hope and her friend Everline laugh together at school in Uganda

When she first started her period, Anna Hope was frightened.

She didn’t know what was happening to her and so at first she didn’t tell anyone – and she’s not alone. Because periods are a taboo topic in Uganda, they can have a huge impact on girls’ daily activities, education and self-esteem.

When Anna Hope did manage to confide in a friend, they were able to explain things to her and gave her some rags to use.

But this is another hurdle girls at their school face. For many, poverty can prevent them from being able to afford sanitary products and managing their periods in the way they’d choose to.

That’s why we’re supporting girls in Uganda by distributing menstrual hygiene materials in schools, and increasing access to affordable and hygienic sanitary pads.

We're also setting up health clubs where girls can learn about health and hygiene and how to manage their periods, so they feel confident and able to stay in education.

BECAUSE I AM A GIRL

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