Combating Menstrual Stigma

Faith Kiraison, an advocate for girls’ rights and health in South Africa, recently taught her peers about menstrual health management. She recalled that she “felt embarrassed to be a girl” and “felt like it was a punishment,” an experience that is all too common for girls around the world. Many women lack basic knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health and access to menstrual health supplies. Socially and culturally, women also grapple with shame and taboos surrounding menstruation. These concerns were recently addressed at the Menstrual Health Management Symposium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The main goal of the symposium was to break down taboos and build positive norms around menstruation.

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Research shows up to seven million schoolgirls in South Africa cannot afford sanitary pads. Young women across the world must be empowered to know that menstruation is not something to be ashamed by destigmatizing period shaming in homes, schools, and other important spaces in women’s lives. Improving sexual and reproductive health could overall increase women’s and girl’s participation in education and the economy. Easier access to menstrual products could contribute to the improvement of reproductive health, benefitting millions of lower income women across the world.