Hidden Issues

The stigma around menstruation often adversely affects women and girls around the world, particularly those who live in extreme poverty and in communities with crippling gender inequality. Two-thirds of the world’s uneducated children are girls, and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women (Save the Children, 2014).  Around the world, girls and women continue to suffer from a lack of economic opportunity, poor and inadequate health care and education, early marriage, sexual violence and discrimination.

Some disconcerting facts

  • Since most girls from poor families cannot afford sanitary protection, they resort to less effective solutions such as unsanitary scraps of cloth to manage their periods (The Times of India, 2011).
  • Using old cloth to manage menses is disruptive to daily life. It requires water, time and privacy to hang dry. (McMahon et al., 2011) Inadequate or no access to soap, clean water and privacy to dry a washable cloth pad also impedes several women’s ability to handle their periods hygienically. All of the above increases the risk for unitary tract infections, reproductive tract diseases and other pelvic infections.
  • Other products offered by international aid agencies, such as the menstrual cup, are often considered culturally unacceptable and impractical (T. Crofts, 2012).  Without access to clean running water or fuel for boiling and sanitizing, these cups may be unhygienic and potentially dangerous. 
  • In Kenya, 80.7% of girls attend at least some primary school. However, only 20.5% of these girls attend any secondary school (KNBS & ICF Macro, 2010). According to a study conducted by the Kenyan Ministry of Education, collectively, adolescent girls across Kenya miss close to 3.5 million learning days per month due to their menstrual cycle, resulting in doing poorly in school, often dropping out and becoming child brides.
  • Girls in India can miss up to 5 days of school each month once they begin menstruating (The Times of India, 2011).
  • According to the Annual Survey of Education Report published by Pratham (India), girls in India ages 11 to 14 are most vulnerable to drop out of school (ASER, 2013).