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Why period stigma should be considered a global health issue

23 May 2019
Menstruation is not a dirty word. Period.
Across the globe, millions of women are skipping school, losing grades and dropping out early to manage their periods - which means missing out on reaching their full potential.

While traveling in Cambodia, Alana Munro was confronted with the poor state of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.


Alana Munro is a University of Sydney alumnus and PhD candidate who has made it her mission to help women reach their full potential, by putting an end to period stigma. We caught up with her in the lead up to Menstrual Hygiene Day to find out more about the global issue and what she is hoping to achieve with her research.

A global snapshot

  • Indigenous girls in rural and remote Australia have reported missing school when they have their periods because they have no access or can't afford sanitary products. Learn more.
  • 49% of UK girls missed one day of school due to menstruation, but attributed it to another excuse; and 1 in 10 girls could not afford sanitary products. Learn more.
  • 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to miss as much as 20% of their school year due to challenges posed by menstruation. Learn more.
  • 23% of Indian girls drop out of school on reaching puberty or are absent from school 3 to 6 days per month due to challenges of managing their menstruation. Learn more.

Why is there such a stigma about periods?

Period stigma finds its roots across most cultures and religions. In traditional cultural and religious teachings, menstruating girls and women were deemed “dirty”, “impure” or “unclean”. This view of menstruation remains embedded within today’s society, leaving females disempowered and ashamed of menstruation.

These misconceptions shape menstruation as a dirty little secret. And, when we continue to enforce that idea – whether that’s through persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure – we feed the stigma.

How does this impact women's education?

Looking at the overseas literature, it's evident that a lack of knowledge on menstruation, coupled with shame and poor pragmatic guidance and support for girls to manage their periods, is linked to increased school absenteeism, poor academic performance, lower school completion rates, and increased rates of reproductive tract infections which can keep them from school.

Lana's research will be the first Australian study to explore the relationship between menstrual hygiene management and education in Australia, and she's hoping the results will support the existing international evidence.


Get involved

This Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), Alana has committed to improving access to sanitary products for all female students to ensure their periods don’t affect their potential while at University. Get involved by donating pads and tampons that can be distributed in student bathrooms across the Camperdown/Darlington and Cumberland campuses.

When: Collecting donations between 28 May – 28 June.
Donation drop-off:
 Please donate sanitary items to the Tearoom, RC Mills Building, Camperdown Campus.
More information:
Alana Munro (alana.munro@sydney.edu.au)
Find out more:
menstrualhygieneday.org

Through this initiative we hope to normalise menstruation, open the dialogue on menstrual hygiene management and safeguard our female students’ education.