Written by Standard Issue

Health

A bleeding shame

Many British women are still too embarrassed to talk about their periods. Especially to their boss. Why not make a noise on World Menstrual Hygiene Day?

Action Aid period taboo posterPeriods, it appears, are still a taboo topic for many of us. One in three of us to be exact, according to a new poll of British women by charity ActionAid, ahead of Saturday’s World Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Despite the fact that three and a half million girls and women in the UK have missed school or work because of their period, 65 per cent gave another reason for their absence rather than telling their boss the truth.

The YouGov poll of 1,096 women aged 16 and above found women aged 16-24 were more likely to be embarrassed about their periods than women aged 25-39 (54 per cent compared with 33 per cent), with women in Wales the least troubled by period chat (21 per cent).

Around the world many people still see menstruation as a taboo subject, with women and girls in developing countries often stigmatised for simply having their periods, which can lead to them avoiding school. A study in Ethiopia found 50 per cent of girls miss up to four days of school per month due to having their periods.

ActionAid’s Jessica Holland says: “It’s deeply saddening that, in 2016, many women still feel the subject of their period is taboo and would feel embarrassed to talk about it. This is a natural occurrence that affects 50 per cent of the population – so why are we still shying away from talking about our periods?

“This is a problem that extends to women and girls around the world, where taboos around periods and lack of access to sanitary products often affect their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

“For millions of girls and women living in poverty around the world, having their period can mean missing out on an education and losing out on earning money because of lack of adequate toilets, water and sanitary products. This is simply not fair.”

When the British women were asked what situations would be the most embarrassing to get your period in:

• 67 per cent said while swimming/on the beach
• 67 per cent said at a social event
• 65 per cent said on their wedding day
• 65 per cent said while exercising
• 63 per cent said at an interview
• 63 per cent said during a long commute
• 62 per cent said at work/school
• 48 per cent said when being intimate with a partner.

Holland continues: “A woman’s period can affect her in very different ways. Yet our research shows that despite needing to take time off from work or school because of their period, the majority of women would not feel comfortable being honest about this.

“On World Menstrual Hygiene Day let’s break the taboo and get talking about periods to stand with the girls around the world who face the greatest impact because of their monthly cycle.”

ActionAid, which is helping girls to stay in school by improving access to hygiene facilities, sanitary products and by building safe rooms in schools so girls have somewhere to rest if they feel unwell because of their period, has also launched a collection of reimagined vintage posters to highlight the myths and taboos women across the globe are often told about menstruating.

Vintage period adverts reimagined to highlight global taboos about periodsThe reimagined posters highlight:

• Some women believe they can’t bathe near cooking utensils when they have their period, because their blood could kill family members
• Some women across the world avoid going in the sea when they have their periods as they believe they are more likely to be attacked by sharks
• Some women believe that their partners will die if they have sex on their period
• In some parts of the world, some girls are told that their teeth will fall out if they cook with salt on their period.

Holland added: “Around the world, many girls often face prejudice, shame and discrimination simply because they have their periods. These taboos can have a long-lasting impact on a girl’s life and her body, often impacting her ability to go to school and gain an education.

Help Action Aid by making a monthly donation: www.actionaid.org.uk/periods

@ActionAid

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Written by Standard Issue