This post was previously published on Buzzfeed.
Written by Elisabeth Epstein of Girls’ Globe and Danielle Keiser of WASH United.
We all may know that menstruation is a natural part of the reproductive cycle, but what some may not realize is that in many developing countries, the lack of information about menstrual hygiene, as well as materials themselves, creates a culture of taboos and misinformation about menstruation and potential health risks such as vaginal infections. Today, on the first annual International Menstrual Hygiene Day – the 28th of May, let’s start the conversation about menstruation with these 28 reasons why menstruation matters.
1. Educating girls about menstruation helps increase self esteem, raise grades and raise wages.
2. Learning about menstruation empowers girls to take care of themselves in brand new ways.
Knowing that their period is coming about every month gives girls a newfound and empowering sense of responsibility for their taking care of their bodies.
3. It gives them the freedom to make their own decisions.
Learning and understanding what menstrual hygiene options exist for them gives girls the opportunity to choose what solution is best for them.
4. It gives girls and women confidence to live their lives normally.
When they know that they have reliable and hygienic solutions to absorb or collect their menstrual flow, women and girls can do anything they normally would when they are not menstruating.
5. It allows girls to be prepared for their first period.
Talking about menstrual hygiene before menarche (the first period) is very important for ensuring that girls know how to handle the often scary first period.
6. Understanding how tampons, menstrual cups, or other sanitary materials work allows girls to explore their bodies in new and important ways.
7. Proper menstrual hygiene keeps girls in school.
At least one in five girls drop out when periods begin. Those who persist typically miss five days of school each month due to inadequate menstrual protection.
8. Access to menstrual hygiene products keeps girls on the same track as their male peers.
Lack of modern sanitary products often leads to lower school attendance rates, failure and/or dropping out. When girls miss school they lose educational pace with boys, making them more vulnerable inside and outside of the classroom.
9. Girls staying in school longer contributes to the economic empowerment of not only the woman, but also to the family, community and nation.
10. It keeps women at work, contributing to economic development.
In Bangladesh, inadequate sanitation for women and girls is estimated to cost USD $ 21,750,000 due to absence from school and work.
11. It helps confront myths and cultural superstitions.
Educating girls and women about feminine hygiene and biology helps to bust myths and cultural superstitions. Access to correct information about hygiene and adequate sanitary materials enables women to feel more confident and comfortable with their bodies.
12. Debunking myths and taboos can keep girls and women safe.
The tradition of chaupadi (the practice of forcing menstruating women and girls to spend days isolated in sheds) is dangerous for women and girls. In 2010, some women observing chaupadi reported being raped, while others died of snakebite, hypothermia and severe bleeding.
13. It helps women realize that they are not impure.
In many traditional Hindu homes, menstruating women can’t perform religious rituals, touch idols, pray, visit temples, cook, serve food or touch drinking water because they are considered impure.
14. Understanding menstruation helps women realize that they are not unclean.
Many traditional religions consider menstruation ritually unclean, however, when one has access to sanitation facilities and menstrual hygiene products, good hygiene is easy to maintain.
15. Correct information about menstrual hygiene fills in boys’ and men’s knowledge gaps, clearing up misconceptions they may have about menstrual blood.
Desensitizing men and boys about menstruation leads to more open conversations and empathy. Since fathers are often the breadwinners, it is important to inform them about menstruation because they determine if funds are available to buy menstrual products.
16. Educating men and boys about menstruation can help men develop higher levels of understanding of women and girls’ bodies and needs.
17. Learning about menstrual hygiene management helps ensure cleanliness.
Knowing what product or material to use, how often to change it, and having access to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities helps girls and women maintain good hygiene while menstruating.
18. It helps keep Bacterial Vaginosis (bacterial vaginal infections) away.
19. It can help prevent girls and women from getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
Women and girls who do not regularly change their tampon risk being infected by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. In rare cases, these bacteria lead to TSS, an infection that may result in shock, renal failure, or even death.
20. It helps prevent skin irritations.
Wet pads that are not changed frequently can cause skin irritation which can then get infected if the skin becomes broken.
21. It helps reduce the likelihood of getting cervical cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, India accounts for 27 percent of the world’s cervical cancer deaths. The incidence rate there is almost twice the global average and doctors studying the disease believe poor menstrual hygiene is partly to blame. The homespun solutions raise the risk of vaginal infections that suppress the reproductive tract’s natural defenses. A weaker immune response can compromise the body’s ability to fight the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, the microbial cause of most cervical cancers.
22. Using reusable menstrual hygiene products like menstrual cups and reusable pads can help reduce waste in the environment.
23. Reusable menstrual hygiene products can help reduce waste in the environment. (Yep, we said it again.)
It is estimated that nearly 20 billion pads and tampons are discarded every year in North America alone.
24. Did we mention that reusable menstrual hygiene products can help reduce waste?
The average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of pads, plugs, and applicators in her lifetime. That sounds like a lot. But how much is 300 pounds in the grand scheme of things? Consider that the average American woman menstruates for 38 years—a period during which she can be expected to produce a grand total of 62,415 pounds of garbage.
25. No seriously, they can do wonders for the environment.
The plastics in a pad will take hundreds of years to decompose.
26. Reusable menstrual hygiene methods can help keep the plumber away.
Incorrect disposal of used sanitary products can result in clogged toilets and breakdowns in sanitation systems.
27. They can keep animals happy in their natural habitats.
The process of manufacturing disposable pads and tampons pollutes our waterways, air and animal habitats.
28. When made affordable and accessible, reusable products can keep women and girls from having sex for pads.
Roughly half of all girls living in Kenyan slums have sex with older men in exchange for sanitary napkins.
Learn more about the importance of menstrual hygiene and discover how you can take action.
Join the conversation on Twitter using #MenstruationMatters and find events happening near you.