Why Menstrual Products Should be Free for All

I believe change is possible. I envision a world where those in remote rural areas, as well as other disadvantaged communities like mine, can have their periods with dignity.

In this world, young people would not have to miss out on classes because they have no proper menstrual products. For many young girls, menstruation is an addition to the long list of gender disparities they face every day of their lives. I find it almost unbelievable that having to go through a period without appropriate products can infringe on the most basic human rights of girls – including access to education.

In Zimbabwe, many girls in remote rural regions, and other disadvantaged areas such as farming communities, stay at home for the entire length of their periods.

This is primarily because of the fear and shame that exists around leaking in front of others. Sometimes girls use discarded cloth, but this does not offer sufficient protection on their long walks to school. It is these fears which prompt them to stay home and miss out their classes. If girls miss out on classes, they won’t be able to excel in their studies, which not only impacts negatively on the girl herself, but on her community as a whole.

The education of girls is undeniably one of the primary focus areas of development efforts, as female school achievement is believed to have long-lasting and far-reaching economic effects. Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. To meet this aim, I believe that it’s imperative to provide free menstrual products for all.

The difficulty of using cloth while on your period is that you need to wash, dry and change the cloth. However, many schools don’t have facilities where girls can wash themselves and change their cloths, and there is nowhere to hang cloths to dry. This helps to explain why many stay home once a month, and demonstrates the importance of free provision of menstrual products to girls from disadvantaged communities in Zimbabwe and elsewhere around the world.

Stigma and gender disparities are still rife within many communities in Zimbabwe, and it should be noted that the subject of menstrual health remains a taboo. Parents don’t discuss it with their children, which leaves girls to suffer from pain and shame in silence.

In my community, there are many negative cultural attitudes associated with menstruation, including the idea that menstruating people are ‘contaminated’, ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’.

Stigma puts young girls in particular in an extremely difficult position – if they don’t have proper menstrual products, they leak. If they are seen with stained clothes, they risk being socially segregated.

I believe that one day, people from disadvantaged communities like mine will be free to experience their periods with dignity. Girls will be able to attend school, excel in their studies and, above all, stand and fight against stigma and discrimination. I believe that this begins with access to free menstrual products for all.

5 Instagram Accounts Tackling Menstrual Stigma

While the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation may be far from broken, it is definitely showing cracks. Here are 5 taboo-tackling accounts to follow to help celebrate and normalize menstruation – one double tap at a time.

1. Pink Bits

This Australian artist posts illustrations to celebrate “the bits and shapes we’re told to hide”. Period-positive, body-positive and just really cute, these illustrations will cheer up any Insta feed.

A post shared by Pink Bits (@pink_bits) on

2. Clue

Clue is a period tracking app and an encyclopedia of informative articles on menstrual and reproductive health. On Instagram, they share some of the lastest scientific research in a way that’s informative and easy to understand.

3. Bloody Good Period

Bloody Good Period provide menstrual supplies for asylum seekers, refugees & those who can’t afford them by collecting donations and distributing via drop-in centres and food banks across the UK. On social media they’re opening up conversations by posting reminders that periods are natural, NOT shameful.

4. Menstrugram

This Berlin-based art project is a “rebellion against the taboo”. The photographs are all of menstrual blood, which – being really honest – I found quite shocking at first. This made me realise I’d never ever seen an image of real period blood before, and proves the entire point of the project.

A post shared by Menstru gram (@menstrugram) on

5. BLOB.gram

Feeling tired of the ‘empowered’ and ‘positive’ period campaigns they kept seeing, menstrual and sexual health specialists Terri & Lily created BLOB – a space to acknowledge that periods can have a negative side too. Their Instagram is a joyful feed of frank, honest and inclusive info on periods, menstrual and sexual health.


Am I missing something? Who would you add to this list? Leave a comment if you have any suggestions, and make sure you’re following Girls’ Globe on Instagram too!

Menstrual Cups: Breaking the Bloody Taboo

The menstrual cup has gained a lot of traction in recent years. By some, it is seen as just an eco-friendly hipster trend, but for women across the world it provides a cost-effective, safe way to manage periods. For those of you who haven’t heard of a menstrual cup, let me give you a breakdown...

The menstrual cup was invented in the 1920s (yes, that’s right, almost 100 years ago). It is a reusable device to collect menstrual blood during your period. Inserted into the vagina, it sits comfortably underneath your cervix for around 4-8 hours. It is then washed and reinserted, and this is repeated until the last day of your period. Cups are made from medical-grade silicon, and therefore hypoallergenic as there are no nasty chemicals.

One menstrual cup lasts for ten years, so as long as you sterilise your cup at the end of every cycle, you can use it for a decade.

The majority of people will argue that cups are revolutionary because they are healthier, safer and cost-effective – which is true. However for me, the cup’s real revolution is the closeness it creates between you and your period.

As menstruators, we are taught that our period is something to be embarrassed of. We are taught to hide our menstrual products from anyone and everyone. We are constantly bombarded with adverts which detach us from the reality of menstrual blood. The language we hear and use makes us feel periods are unclean, and something we should be ashamed of.

The menstrual taboos of shame and uncleanliness make women squeamish about their own natural bodily process. But, the process of using a menstrual cup means you have no choice but to get down and dirty with your period.

The first time I used my menstrual cup, I felt empowered. It was the first time I had properly understood my vagina, my menstrual cycle and my menstrual blood. I will admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive about being so intimate with my period-y self, but after the first try, I was sold.

The cup requires more insertion than a tampon, and in order to remove and reuse, you’ve really got to get intimate with your vagina. The first few times may get a little messy. You may be confused about your downstairs anatomy. Or, you may never have been so close to that region before. Yes, it is strange at first. But before long, it stops feeling strange and starts to feel like a revalation.

After years of feeling ashamed of and disgusted by my body during menstruation, I finally felt comfortable and intimate with my menstruating self.

Cups can offer a positive alternative to other products for women across the world. They reduce the waste that ends up in landfills and the impact of our carbon footprint. They provides a safe alternative to the leading brands of tampons, which are bleached. Using cups puts a middle finger up to the corporations who profit from shaming our bodies by telling us our periods are discreet. And, they are safer because they doesn’t absorb the vagina’s natural fluids in the way other products do.

Whilst all those things are great, they don’t stop young people from feeling humiliation, fear and shame when they first get their period. In order to bring about real change, we must start with eradicating taboos.

The cup is the tool just for that. When you’re comfortable with your period, you become curious and intrigued by your anatomy. When you begin to speak frankly about menstruating you can change other people’s perceptions about their periods too. The cup is the gateway to being open and honest about your period. Being frank about menstruating may just steer girls away from those feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Perceptions around periods need to change. We need to stop making people feel grossed-out and ashamed of menstrual blood. Periods are a necessary and normal part of a woman’s reproductive system, so what’s the big deal? It’s time to get up close and personal with your menses

As an avid menstrual cup user and trainer, I can happily say that after two decades of hiding from menstruation, and of feeling dirty and ashamed, I no longer do. I want everyone who experiences menstruation to feel the same. After all, there really is no point crying over spilt blood.

Yes, I’m on my Period. No, I’m Not Dirty.

Today, my period came a couple of days earlier than usual so it caught me off guard at work. I asked a co-worker if she had a pad or tampon I could borrow. She handed me a case that she expected me to take to the bathroom and return.

Instead, I opened it and took out the pad. She looked at me and asked, “don’t you mind walking around with it?” I replied, “I don’t, it’s perfectly natural.” When I returned to my desk I started thinking…why is being in your period still frowned upon? God forbid someone hears you say the word ‘menstruation’, because it is ‘rude’ to talk about the topic in public.

It’s 2020 and the cashier at the drug store still looks at me strangely when I buy tampons and say no thank you when she offers me a plastic bag. How dare I walk down the street without hiding my malign purchase?

For centuries, women on their periods have been thought of as ‘dirty’ or ‘impure’. This has to stop. It is a social construction that leads to gender discrimination, misinformation and taboos.

This experience I had at work came at a very convenient moment since last week the documentary Period. End of Sentence won an Oscar. This brilliant documentary shows us how women in rural India fight for menstrual equality. But our sisters in India aren’t the only ones battling with this issue.

At least 500 million women and girls globally lack space and supplies for handling their periods.

In Mexico, where 44% of our women live in poverty, many don’t even have access to decent period care, let alone healthcare supplies. This lack of healthcare access causes them to live in hygiene crisis and at risk of infection.

In some countries, menstrual supplies are no longer taxed and in others they are totally free of cost. Governments needs to be on our side with these initiatives so women from more vulnerable social situations don’t have to choose between food on their plate or menstrual supplies.

As women, we need to empower other women to speak freely about their periods without embarrassment or shame.

We need to speak our minds when we are faced with stigma and taboo.

Men need to stop ignoring or repelling us whenever we talk about menstruation and get involved in listening to what this process means to us and how we get through it.

It’s 2020. Menstruation is natural. Let’s end period taboo once and for all.

Taking Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) Seriously

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common experience for many women. The most common symptoms include bloating, fatigue, headaches, and mood swings. As annoying and bothersome as these symptoms can be, most women are able to endure this monthly disturbance without any major issues.

But PMS can turn into a debilitating and even life-threatening disorder that is unfortunately not nearly as well-known as it should be – premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

The disorder is recognized by both the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization. Current estimates indicate that PMDD affects 1 in 20 women or individuals assigned female at birth of reproductive age.

The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but much more severe. They also include loss of interest in daily activities, difficulty concentrating, anger, sudden mood swings, and severe anxiety and/or depression. Symptoms can even lead up to suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.

Several women have shared the struggle of living with PMDD with the BBC. They talk of experiencing bursts of anger, suicidal thoughts, and even being sanctioned to psychiatric hospitals. With treatment, however, the women shared that they are able to live happy and fulfilling lives, despite PMDD.

Lack of awareness of PMDD is likely the main obstacle for treatment.

I myself only heard of it for the first time around a year ago. A survey commissioned by the Society for Women’s Health Research revealed that 45% of respondents never talked about PMS with their doctors. Worse yet: 24% of respondents who claimed having severe PMS symptoms were unaware of PMDD, and feared that their doctors would not take their complaints seriously.

To diagnose PMDD, as there is no specific test, a doctor must first eliminate other possible causes for symptoms. The doctor will want to rule out thyroid disorder, anxiety and mood disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome, for example. These can all cause similar symptoms to PMDD. To be considered PMDD, symptoms must show up during the week or two before a woman gets her menstrual period, and subside shortly after the period begins.

Treatment options vary, from hormonal treatment with birth control pills, to taking the class of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Since PMDD only shows up around the time before a menstrual period, it may take a few cycles for treatment to take effect, but with adequate treatment and support, it’s possible to live well with PMDD.

Women’s health, especially surrounding menstruation, remains a taboo and stigmatized topic, even in developed countries.

We need a major culture change to start taking women-specific health issues as seriously as other health issues. I believe this change must start with us, women, in breaking the shame and stigma that may live within ourselves. How many times have we been ashamed of our own periods and PMS symptoms? I know I have. Change begins with us. We should be proud of our biology, know our bodies, talk openly, take our symptoms seriously, seek medical help, fight for the treatment we deserve, and encourage other women to do same.

If you think you may have PMDD, please reach out for help, especially if you’ve been experiencing suicidal thoughts. Talk to a trusted family member of friend and seek medical help as soon as possible. If you have PMDD, we welcome you to share your experience with us, so we can break the stigma together!

The Global Movement Against the Tampon Tax

Late last year, Germany announced it will stop taxing menstrual products as luxuries, marking them instead as necessities. Starting January 1, 2020, the sales taxes or value added tax (VAT) on these products was reduced from 17% to 9%. The change has been welcomed and celebrated not just in Germany but across the world by advocates for menstrual equity and the elimination of sales taxes that mark menstrual products as luxury items.

Jule Schulte, a German journalist who started the petition to change the VAT, was asked why she thought it took so long for this change to be made in the country. She said: “The fathers of the tampon tax never had a period.”

Campaigners and activists have argued that having a period is not a choice, and therefore menstrual products should not be considered luxury items with high taxes imposed on them.

In the United States, sales taxes vary by state. In March 2019, only ten states considered menstrual products as necessities and exempted them from sales tax. In October, that number went up to 17. Still, that is only 17 out of 50 American states exempting menstrual products such as tampons – hence the term “tampon tax” – from being considered luxuries.

The European Union allows for a reduction of the VAT on menstrual products to a minimum of 5%. This graphic shows the European countries where the tampon tax is highest and lowest.


Some countries have completed removed any sales taxes on menstrual products, such as Kenya, which blazed the trail by removing the VAT back in 2004. Australia, Canada, and India – a country where four out of five women lack access to the products they need – also have removed sales taxes on menstrual products.

In other countries, however, sales tax on menstrual products is as high as 27%, such as the case in Hungary. This graphic hows which countries have the highest sales tax for menstrual products.


For people who don’t menstruate, this may not seem like a big deal. Still, for those who do, it is huge. Particularly for menstruators who are living in poverty or experiencing homelessness, the tampon tax contributes to a phenomenon called period poverty.

As long as period poverty – a truly global issue – persists, activists around the globe will continue to fight for the end of the sexist tampon tax.