Actress, humanitarian and Best Health cover star Meghan Markle recently put a spotlight on a subject that often gets left in the dark: the stigma of menstruation.
For Time, Markle wrote an essay about her experience travelling to Delhi and Mumbai to meet with girls and women who are directly impacted by what can be a life-altering stigma.
“One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health” she writes.
She explains that since girls often don’t have access to menstrual products, they use rags, making it almost impossible to participate in sports and the classroom.
Markle also calls attention to the fact that many schools in developing countries don’t have proper bathrooms or toilets, leaving girls without a place to care for themselves. She also learned that “when a girl misses school because of her period, cumulatively that puts her behind her male classmates by 145 days” – making it extremely difficult to catch up with lessons. For this reason, many girls decide to drop out of school altogether.
“Young girls’ potential is being squandered because we are too shy to talk about the most natural thing in the world,” she writes.
Breaking the silence of menstruation
Due to the taboo nature of menstruation, girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Iran and several other countries often receive very little education about their periods.
“Many girls believe their bodies are purging evil spirits, or that they are injured once a month; this is a shame-filled reality they quietly endure. All of these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.”
Support for organizations and policies that are working on menstrual health management initiatives is key to breaking the stigma, says Markle.
“If menstrual health management were part of the conversation surrounding policy change, just as access to clean water and sanitation, it would push the conversation (and actualization of it) significantly further”.
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