Let’s Break the Cycle and Talk about Menstruation.
Education about menstruation changes everything.
Those of you who regularly read this column will know that besides talking about sex and relationships I often refer to empowering ourselves to see the world differently.
Some years ago a friend got me involved in an NGO Dignity Dreams. Dignity Dreams manufactures and distributes washable sanitary wear and menstrual education to disadvantaged and at risk women and girls.
This week Dignity Dreams and the South African NGO community suffered a huge loss with the death of its founder and leader, Sandra Millar. This is my tribute to her.
It seems that the more work we do, the more work we need to do especially when it comes to education about menstruation.
Last year we sent a delegation to the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen and came back with renewed commitment to face the challenges presented.
28 May is International Menstrual Hygiene Management Day and Dignity Dreams is hosting their event on the 25th. Our partners in this fund raising event are Empire Foundation and #Sweet16Summit Campaign. I urge you to donate, participate and educate.
Menstrual Hygiene Management is as important to sexual health as breathing is to surviving, so I’m not really sure why it has received such a bad rap.
At Dignity Dreams we have embarked on research with the help of a student to ascertain whether poverty affects the menstrual experience and early indications will surprise you.
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When it comes to accessibility to sanitary products the answer is absolutely but what scares me is what else is coming out of the research.
Most women and girls regardless of demographic believe that they are dirty because they menstruate. Feeling dirty has an enormous impact on self esteem and herein lies the problem.
Myths and taboos are perpetuated from mother to daughter and very little or no education is done in schools to rectify the situation. We still do not want to speak about menstruation in open and honest discussions. Dignity Dreams recently brought out a book, My Body #NoShame, to help with the education process. We donate these to young girls across South Africa. You can donate or purchase one for yourself. We are also looking for help translating them in vernacular languages.
It’s time to change the lack of education and discussion and begin the dialogue. Every woman will menstruate for most of her adult life. This will happen for between 3 to 7 days in every 28 to 30 days. This is called the menstrual cycle.
If she does not menstruate she will not be able to fall pregnant and have a baby. No menstruation, no human race. So can we show it a bit more respect.
I understand why the ancients thought that menstruation was a disease or a curse of some sort. Let’s face it a woman bleeding from her vagina each month must have been ill, diseased or hurt in some way. Little wonder there were myths and taboos about it. They did not have science to explain it.
We have only known why we menstruate for a century or more but now that we know better we can do better.
The international community of which Dignity Dreams is a part has a 2017 agenda.
This includes the following four asks:
Provide education on menstrual hygiene so that women and girls feel confident and are empowered to make informed decisions about how they manage their menstruation.
Integrate menstrual hygiene education into national curricula, policies and programmes for adolescents .
Promote education for boys, men, mothers, teachers, health workers and other professionals, so they can help break negative social norms and provide accurate information and support.
Enable girls to stay in school by ensuring access to hygienic menstrual products, adequate toilets, water and disposal options.
In my world these seem to be given, but in many communities this is not so. This is vitally important. Menstrual hygiene management can positively impact on our economy.
For every 1% of women who complete secondary school education (ages 11 to 16) the annual per capita economic growth increases by 0.3%. These girls will marry later and have less children. They also have better maternal health with healthier children who receive better education.
For each additional year in school, a woman’s earnings in her lifetime increases between 10 to 20%.
The taboos and myths run very deep. We need to speak openly about how and why.
We have to address the issues that impact on self esteem, education and health. Men and women alike!
At Dignity Dreams we need all the help we can get to reach as many girls we can with real information through the Booklet and the Sanitary packs. Each pack contains 6 washable sanitary pads, 3 pairs of panties, washing instructions and a draw string bag for storage. The pads have been absorbency approved by the SABS for 4 years. Think about that, your donation can change a girl’s whole future.
Just think about it, everything you can do – women can do bleeding!